Brewers Hit With ‘Alcopops’ Lawsuit

LOS ANGELES Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing have been hit with a lawsuit alleging the companies intentionally target minors by advertising on media popular with underage consumers and developing flavored alcoholic beverages known as “alcopops” that often resemble soft drinks, according to a statement issued today by attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that Anheuser-Busch and Miller are violating California law “by promoting and facilitating underage drinking and with reckless disregard for human life and the well-being of the public,” according to the statement.

The suit was filed on behalf of Lynne and Reed Goodwin, who lost their 20-year-old daughter Casey Goodwin when an underage drunk driver crashed into her.

Attorneys at Hagens Berman, a law firm in Los Angeles, claim this is the first broad-based consumer action filed under California’s unfair competition and public nuisance laws.

“Anheuser-Busch and Miller are inflating their profits at the expense of public safety and health,” said Steve Berman, attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement. “In effect, we allege and intend to prove, that these manufacturers are luring underage drinkers into potentially life-threatening addictions before they have the maturity necessary to make an informed decision whether to consume alcohol.”

The suit asks the court to compel Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing to immediately cease marketing to children and requests that the defendants account for profits gained through these alleged activities and pay restitution.

“We do not believe this lawsuit has merit or will do anything to address this important societal issue,” A-B said in a statement attributed to vice president Francine Katz. “Our marketing and advertising is directed at adults and is placed in programming that is watched overwhelmingly by adults. A 2003 revew of advertising and youth by the Federal Trade Commission confirms that our practices our responsible.”

In a statement, Miller Brewing charactized the lawsuit as “frivolous” and said, “Study after study has shown that advertising has little to do with underage drinking. Rather, parents are the primary influence in underage drinking decisions. We believe this lawsuit is completely without merit and we intend to vigorously defend it in court.”