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Four New Lawsuits Filed in Federal District Courts to Curb Illegal Wine Shipments into Michigan
Media Contact: LARA Communications (517-335-LARA (5272))
May 7, 2021 - The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) today confirmed that lawsuits have been filed in the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan federal court against companies in West Virginia, California, Oregon and New York, that continue to defy state liquor laws by illegally shipping alcohol directly to consumers.
"These lawsuits filed by Attorney General Dana Nessel on behalf of the Commission serve as an important deterrent against other companies violating the state's liquor laws and jeopardizing the health, safety, and welfare of Michiganders," said MLCC Chair Pat Gagliardi. "The Commission will continue its vigorous enforcement efforts to combat the illegal direct shipping of alcohol into this state, and to send a strong message that if you wish to sell alcohol legally here, get licensed."
The litigation requests injunctive relief against: Lambert's Vintage Wines, LLC d/b/a Lambert's Winery; Villa Amorosa d/b/a Castello di Amorosa; Schmidt Family Vineyards, LLC; and Taste Wine, LLC d/b/a Taste Wine Company.
These companies refused to follow the law. Despite receiving letters demanding that they cease and desist importing alcohol into Michigan, they continued to ship to Michigan customers, violating both the Michigan Liquor Control Code and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.
The lawsuits seek an injunction based on the Twenty-First Amendment Enforcement Act, a federal statute that allows state attorneys general to take action to enforce their state's liquor laws in federal court. Typically, Michigan law requires beer and wine to be channeled through MLCC-licensed wholesale entities for distribution to retail locations. In limited instances, a manufacturer may ship wine directly to consumers, but only if it is licensed to do so.
Each year, unlicensed companies skirt state laws and import thousands of bottles of wine into Michigan illegally. The effects of this illegal importation are significant: minors can easily obtain alcoholic liquor, state officials have no effective means to ensure that the imported products are safe, and Michiganders lose out on millions in tax revenue to provide vital services.
The MLCC's Enforcement Division along with the Attorney General's office, have thwarted hundreds of entities' efforts to violate state liquor license laws. Most shippers stopped their illegal activity after hearing from Nessel's office, either by ceasing shipments to Michigan or by obtaining the necessary liquor license from the MLCC.
The complaints also allege in the federal filings that each defendant is violating Michigan's Consumer Protection Act by misleading Michigan consumers to think that the companies' activities are legal. Violations of the Consumer Protection Act are punishable by fines of up to $25,000 per violation.
Earlier this year, Nessel secured significant fines and permanent injunctions against two companies that had been illegally shipping alcoholic liquor to Michigan consumers. Judges in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan entered consent judgments against Vintner's Collective, LLC, and Go to Gifts, Inc.
It is the mission of MLCC to make alcoholic beverages available for consumption while protecting the consumer and the general public through regulation of those involved in the importation, sale, consumption, distribution, and delivery of these alcohol beverage products.