Crime, Drinking, Police, Sentencing Law, Tobacco / Smoking

Inmates Claim Alcohol Forced Itself Down Their Throats, Seek Damages

Where good decisions go to die.

I just got back from a weekend in New Orleans. Let’s just say that I’ve been freshly reminded of how alcohol can lead to some questionable decision making. Dear God, what a town.

Of course, I’m not the first person to wake up in a gutter on Bourbon Street thinking, “How did it come to this?,” and tracing it all to a drink of some kind, the “one drink too many.” All joking aside, only people who work for beer companies act like alcohol isn’t a huge factor in many serious crimes in this country. Assaults, domestic violence, rapes, even murders are often fueled by excessive consumption.

That said, very few people are abducted, unknowingly saturated with alcohol, and then set loose on an unsuspecting public. Lots of people consume alcohol responsibly. Many people consume alcohol irresponsibly without hurting anyone else, and a few irresponsible individuals consume to excess and then commit heinous acts. What are we going to do, sue the beer companies because some individuals get liquored up before they commit crimes?

Well, for some criminals in Idaho, that’s exactly what they’re doing….

According to the Idaho Statesman, five inmates at Idaho’s Kuna prison sued major beer companies on the theory that alcohol makers don’t sufficiently warn people that their products are addictive.

It’s a lot like the tobacco lawsuits, only if people were claiming that getting hopped up on lung cancer made people go out and shoot people.

Lead plaintiff Keith Allen Brown shot a man to death. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten pretty blind stinking drunk before, and I’ve never shot anybody. If anything, I’d rather focus on keeping drunk people away from guns than keeping sober people away from beer.

But Brown feels a warning label would have done him good:

Brown, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Bonner County in 2010 after fleeing to Florida, said he’s spent nearly 30 years in prison.

“I have spent a great deal of that time in prison because of situations that have arose because of people being drunk, or because of situations in which alcohol played a major role,” Brown wrote. “At no time in my life, prior to me becoming an alcoholic, was I ever informed that alcohol was habit forming and addictive.”

The companies sued, which include Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Miller, and Jim Beam, have not responded to the complaint.

Obviously, these inmates are trying to echo the successful Big Tobacco litigation. But there are a number of key differences between those lawsuits and this one here. First of all, there was evidence that the tobacco companies knew about the risks of smoking and didn’t tell anybody. Second of all, in many cases you had the states themselves suing the tobacco companies on behalf of all their citizens.

Here, I these guys aren’t alleging that beer companies are sitting in on secret studies and openly misleading the public about the effect alcohol would have on their health. Instead, they’re arguing that if they knew that alcohol was habit forming they’d have taken better, non-criminal actions. They’re not talking what alcohol did to their livers, they’re talking about what alcohol has done to their decision making.

You know what also leads to a lot of bad decisions? Beautiful women. But I don’t think you’re going to see anybody sue Wonderbra for getting them into a bar fight. “At no point in my life, prior to becoming a sex addict, was I ever informed that chasing tail could lead to alienation of friendships and the loss of half my stuff.”

These inmates should probably try sobering up before filing their next lawsuit.

Idaho inmates: The beer made us do it [Idaho Statesman]

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