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Nowrouzi v. Maker's Mark Distillery, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 27, 2015

SAFORA NOWROUZI and TRAVIS WILLIAMS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,


JOHN A. HOUSTON, District Judge.


Currently pending before this Court is the motion to dismiss [doc. # 8] filed by defendant Maker's Mark Distillery, Inc., dba Maker's Mark ("defendant"). The motion has been fully briefed by the parties. After a careful consideration of the pleadings and relevant exhibits submitted, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part defendant's motion.


Plaintiffs Safora Nowrouzi and Travis Williams (collectively "plaintiffs") filed their putative class action complaint on December 8, 2014. The complaint alleges four causes of action against defendant: (1) false advertising; (2) unfair competition; (3) negligent misrepresentation; and (4) intentional misrepresentation. See Compl. Plaintiffs allege that defendant manufactures, markets and sells bourbon whisky products and that they each purchased defendant's bourbon in November 2014. Id . ¶¶ 2, 25, 32-33. Plaintiffs claim they purchased defendant's product because its label contained the statement that it was "handmade" which allegedly led plaintiff to believe the product "was of superior quality" than other bourbon thus justifying spending more for defendant's product than other lesser quality products. Id . ¶¶ 21, 34, 36.

Plaintiffs allege they were misled by defendant's label, noting defendant's process for producing its bourbon involves "little to no human supervision, assistance or involvement." Id . ¶ 35. Plaintiffs further allege defendant's website demonstrates its "mechanized and/or automated" production process which plaintiffs claim is false and misleading because the term "handmade" is defined in the Meridian Webster dictionary as "created by a hand process rather than a machine.'" Id . ¶ 65.

Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss on January 16, 2015. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an opposition and defendant filed a reply brief. The motion was, thereafter, taken under submission without oral argument. See CivLR 7.1(d.1). In addition, plaintiffs, on March 27, 2015, filed a notice of recent authority and defendant, on May 5, 2015, filed a notice of supplemental authority.


Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

1. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984); see Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989) ("Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law"). Alternatively, a complaint may be dismissed where it presents a cognizable legal theory yet fails to plead essential facts under that theory. Robertson, 749 F.2d at 534. While a plaintiff need not give "detailed factual allegations, " he must plead sufficient facts that, if true, "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007).

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547). A claim is facially plausible when the factual allegations permit "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . In other words, "the non-conclusory factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief. Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe all inferences from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2002); Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). However, legal conclusions need not be taken as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2003); Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, documents relied upon but not attached to the complaint when authenticity is not contested, and matters of which the court takes judicial notice. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001). If a court determines that a complaint fails to state a claim, the court should grant leave to amend unless it determines that the ...

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