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Inmate lawsuit against major beer makers thrown out | News

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Inmate lawsuit against major beer makers thrown out
Inmate lawsuit against major beer makers thrown out

The $1 billion federal lawsuit that inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution filed against national beer and wine companies alleging that alcohol led to their crimes and "caused them to become incarcerated for a great portion of their lives" has been thrown out.

U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Ronald Bush wrote in his decision that "manufacturers have no duty to warn in the manner alleged in the Complaint, because it is commonly known to the public that alcohol poses an obvious danger - encompassing many different subcategories of danger - to those who choose to consume it."

A civil suit was filed December 10, 2012 by Keith A. Brown and co-plaintiffs Jeremy J. Brown, Cory A. Baugh, Woodrow J. Grant and Steven T. Thompson. All are current inmates, while Baugh is a former inmate.

Each alleged to have starting drinking as a youth and to have become an alcoholic. Together, they claimed the companies failed to warn them that consuming alcohol can be habit-forming or addictive, "with the risk of causing far-reaching personal injuries and other harm, including lengthy periods of incarceration," according to court documents.

The lawsuit named several major brewers: Miller Brewing Company, Anheuser-Busch Company, Adolph Coors Company, Brown-Furman Company, American Brands Incorporated, Pepsi-Cola, RJR Nabisco, Gallo's Winery (Ernest Gallo and Julio Gallo).

The defendants were seeking $700 million in compensatory damages and $300 million in punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief in the form of a new label to be required upon all alcoholic beverages warning that alcohol is habit-forming and addictive, and a judicial declaration that alcohol is habit-forming and addictive.

Judge Bush said in his decision that "manufacturers’ efforts to persuade the public to purchase their products by using enticing alcoholic beverage advertisements do not mask the obvious dangers of consuming alcohol and do not give rise to a higher duty of the manufacturers of alcohol. Modern society has elected to permit alcohol as a legal substance available to consumers, albeit with restrictions upon age, amount, and location. In so doing, society has placed responsibility in legislative bodies to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of alcohol, and to define the legal consequences of drinking alcohol."

For these reasons, Bush says, "the Court will not recognize a common law duty different from or beyond that already put in place by state and federal legislatures. Consequently, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is granted. Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed with prejudice, without opportunity to amend, because the Court has determined that amendment would be futile.


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