Wine Makers Toast Arsenic Case Dismissal

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on March 24, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California wine makers are toasting the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming arsenic levels are dangerously high and bottles are improperly labeled. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley dismissed a class-action lawsuit that named five of the state's six largest wine producers, finding that their existing warnings comply with regulations. But the plaintiffs have already said they'll appeal the ruling.

A Little Arsenic

The class action lawsuit was filed almost exactly a year ago against TWG, Treasury Wine Estates, Trinchero, Fetzer Vineyards, and Bronco. The complaint was based on a finding of inorganic arsenic in 83 brands, including Franzia, Sutter Home, Beringer, Flipflop, Fetzer, Korbel, Trapiche, Cupcake, Smoking Loon and Charles Shaw. Levels were higher than what the EPA allows in drinking water, per the plaintiffs. They argued that wineries were "secretly poisoning wine consumers," Wine Spectator reports.

The plaintiffs will continue to focus on the posion part, according to their attorneys. In a statement issued after the ruling, co-lead counsel Michael Burg said, "These defendants never once denied that their wines had extremely high levels of inorganic arsenic, so we plan to continue fighting to protect consumers and ensure that they get accurate information about the wine they're consuming."

A Poisonous Elixir

The defendants, meanwhile, sound almost tipsy with glee at the outcome of this case. "The well-being of our consumers has always been our top priority," said Megghen Driscol, a representative for defendant Treasury Wine Estates. "So we are delighted that the Los Angeles Superior Court has confirmed that the plaintiffs' claims of 'failure to warn of trace levels of arsenic in wine' have no legal merit and was -- quite frankly -- absurd."

Apparently the arsenic levels which consumers in the case complained about didn't bother the masses, as sales of the stuff rose last year, according to Wine Searcher. Indeed, the suit's dismissal seems to confirm what so many have said for so long -- wine is an elixir even if it is a little poisonous.

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