A Federal Judge Wrote Beer Puns into a Decision on Red Robin's Allegedly Misleading 'Pints'
The original lawsuit was filed over the restaurant chain's Stella Artois chalices, which hold less than 16 ounces.
Even if you're not a pilsner drinker, you've probably seen Stella Artois' signature chalices. The Belgian beer's gold-rimmed glassware has become so ubiquitous that it's expanded into limited-edition collectibles, like a Solo cup-inspired plastic chalice and an elegant Royal Wedding edition, that summarized Prince Harry's relationship with Meghan Markle in 19 carefully designed symbols.
But not everyone is delighted by Stella's chalices, especially the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the Red Robin restaurant chain. Christopher Bruun and others allege that they were all "cheated out of two ounces" of Stella Artois when they ordered the beer at Red Robin. According to their legal filing, they expected 16-ounce servings but those chalices "actually hold just about 14 ounces."
Law & Crime reports that Red Robin's legal team has attempted to move this lawsuit from state court to federal court because of something called the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), which gives a federal court jurisdiction over some class-action lawsuits that meet several conditions, including having a class of more than 100 individual members, and that the "amount in controversy" is more than $5 million.
Red Robin has asked a Nevada federal court to preside over this case, because it says that their 454 corporate-owned locations have sold over $16 million worth of Stella Artois in the past four years, and their 102 franchised restaurants also have the beer on tap, which would add to that total. Between that and the attorneys' fees, Red Robin's legal team argued, they would be over the CAFA-required $5 million minimum.
Federal Judge Jennifer A. Dorsey disagreed, and she also did the math. For starters, she wrote that the "amount in controversy" is just the two ounces-per-pour that "Red Robin promised but did not deliver," and those two ounces only account for 12.5 percent of the beer's purchase price. That brings the dollar amount in question down to $2 million, but Red Robin had already acknowledged that only $7.1 million of its total Stella sales were 16-ounce servings, so only 12.5 percent of that number ($887,500) could be considered.
Judge Dorsey also seems to have enjoyed writing her decision, because she scattered more than a half-dozen references to beer throughout the eight-page document. For example, a previous remand motion "took the fizz" out of Red Robin's calculations; the restaurateur "distills" its numbers down; she encouraged "temperance,"; she wrote that Red Robin tried to "tap" its past sales figures; she challenged the assumption that they could reach the CAFA-required "fill line"; some of the chain's math was "a strange brew"; and they did not address a "stout" numerical disparity.
"Because Red Robin's figures are mostly foam and fail to satisfy CAFA's jurisdictional amount-in-controversy threshold, I grant the motion," she wrote, sending the case back to the state courts. The plaintiffs might be toasting the judge's decision—but we'd guess they're probably not lifting chalices of Stella.