Most ridiculous lawsuits: Inmates sue major beer companies: The alcohol made us do it

Keith Allen Brown shot a man to death in Priest Lake five years ago, leading to a 15-year prison sentence. But the 52-year-old says his problems started long before that, when he was just a boy and tasted alcohol for the first time.

Brown and four other inmates at Idaho’s Kuna facility are suing major beer companies, blaming their crimes on alcoholism and claiming that the companies are responsible because they don’t warn consumers that their products are addictive.

Reminiscent of lawsuits filed against major tobacco companies in the mid-1990s, the litigation targets many of the same companies named in a lawsuit filed last February by an Indian tribe in South Dakota. In that case, the Oglala Sioux accused beer companies and a nearby store of contributing to rampant alcoholism on the reservation by disregarding the tribe’s no-alcohol policy.

U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed that lawsuit in October, saying it addresses state law, not federal issues. Gerrard didn’t rule on the allegations in the suit, noting that alcohol undoubtedly contributes to poor conditions on the reservation, and “it may well be that the defendants could or should do more to try and improve those conditions.”

Nebraska lawyer Tom White said the tribal council is to vote next month on whether to refile the lawsuit in state court. The legal arguments differ in the Idaho and tribal cases, but both lawsuits seek $500 million to make up for what they call the harmful effects of alcohol on consumers.

Though alcohol is regularly consumed by millions of people who don’t report health problems or become addicted, White said he believes beer companies engage in predatory marketing.

“I wish them good luck,” White said of Brown’s group.


The Idaho inmates do not have attorneys and drafted the lawsuit themselves ...

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