Judge to Sioux: You Can't Sue Beer Makers for Alcoholism

At least in federal court; state case may follow

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 2, 2012 1:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – A federal judge has dismissed a novel lawsuit filed by a Sioux tribe in South Dakota that went after beer makers and stores of a nearby town for contributing to rampant alcoholism on the reservation, reports the BBC. The $500 million lawsuit by the Oglala tribe centered on these numbers: The neighboring town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, has only a dozen residents, but it has four stores that sell more than 4 million cans of beer a year. Tribe leaders charged that Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors Brewing Company, MillerCoors, and Pabst Brewing Company stocked the town knowing full well that the beer would end up in the hands of residents of the supposedly dry reservation.

The judge's conclusion: There's "little question" that the booze sold in Whiteclay plays a big role in the reservation's alcohol abuse. "And it may well be that the defendants could, or should, do more to try to improve those conditions for members of the tribe. But that is not the same as saying that a federal court has jurisdiction to order them to do so.” He left the door open, however, for the tribe to pursue the matter in state court, reports AP, and the judge's sympathetic language might bode well.

In this 2006 file photo, a shipment of beer is delivered to a store in Whiteclay, Neb.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
This 2003 file photo shows a man drinking a beer with other Native Americans on the streets of Whiteclay, Neb.   (AP Photo/William Lauer, File)
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