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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Inmates Demand Warning Labels on Alcohol

BOISE, Idaho (CN) - Five state prison inmates say in Federal Court that alcohol manufacturers should be required to post warning labels that alcohol is addictive.

In a pro se complaint, the inmates say alcohol contributed to their downfall, and that companies that make beer, wine and booze should be obligated to warn consumers of the dangers of their products.

Lead plaintiff Keith A. Brown sued Miller Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch, Adolph Coors Co., American Brands (maker of Jim Beam), Pepsi-Cola Co. (Stolichnaya Vodka), R.J.R. Nabisco (Jose Cuervo), Gallo Wineries, and Brown-Furman Co. (Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort).

The five men are inmates of prisoners the Idaho State Correctional Institution, in the desert south of Boise.

They say that drinking the defendants' products caused them to "harm others in society," including loved ones, both physically and emotionally.

"This case is about whether or not the named plaintiffs have a right to be warned that they are about to drink a product and that if they do drink that product, they may become alcoholics and/or addicts who are not then in control of what they will do when they are under the influence of this product, or what they will do to purchase more," the complaint states.

The prisoners say that as alcoholics, they have "done actions which have caused them to become incarcerated for a great portion of their lives."

The inmates do not state the nature of their crimes, but say a warning label might have helped them avoid becoming addicted.

They say that it is against the law for the defendants not to provide such warning labels.

"It is the belief of the plaintiffs that it is not legal in the United States of America to sell to the public a product that is habit forming and addictive. (Such products must have some type of warning label)," the complaint states.

They add: "It is fully understood by the plaintiffs that they have alleged materials in this case which could potentially have the effects of being the largest legal action ever filed in the United States if other potential plaintiffs become aware of the contents of this action.

Therefore, it is the wishes and the desire of the named plaintiffs to offer to the defendants and to this court the ability to have this case placed in mediation.

"This offer of mediation does not mean that the plaintiffs do not, and will not take this case to a jury trial. It is simply a way and means for the named defendants to settle this action, and place the proper warning labels on their products."

In an interview with Courthouse News, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous who conducts AA meetings inside prisons described an encounter with inmates. In one meeting, the AA member said, he asked everyone who could remember committing the crime for which they were incarcerated to raise a hand. Fewer than half the men raised a hand, the AA member said.

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