Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer companies over alcoholism

by Walter Olson on February 10, 2012

“An American Indian tribe sued some of the world’s largest beer makers today, claiming they knowingly contributed to devastating alcohol-related problems on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.” The Oglala Sioux tribe is asking for $500 million. [AP; Lincoln Journal-Star; Don Surber] More: Jacob Sullum, Ted Frank.

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{ 17 comments }

1 David Schwartz 02.10.12 at 5:13 am

Is it negligent to sell someone a car if you know they will speed? Does one owe foreign sovereigns a duty to help enforce their laws extraterritorialy? Are they crazy?

2 CTrees 02.10.12 at 7:43 am

The apt corollary is to suits against the tobacco industry. Considering that… there are actually some quite unpleasant (to the liquor companies) parallels one could make.

That said, I can’t see how this is a winner.

3 Scott 02.10.12 at 9:32 am

A big difference between alcohol and tobacco is that many studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption actually seems to improve health. So it’s only abuse that is a problem, which is the case for most things.

4 ps 02.10.12 at 9:50 am

the solution is simple – make it a felony for any member of the Oglala Sioux tribe to purchase or consume alcohol. Or would that piss off the ACLU?

5 Hugo S. Cunningham 02.10.12 at 11:59 am

Would the liquor retailers be subject to civil rights lawsuits if they refused to sell to aboriginals? How about if they asked aboriginals for ID? What if a non-Sioux person with aboriginal appearance was asked for ID?

The Sioux leadership have a legitimate claim, but not for retroactive damages. An arrangement could be negotiated to reduce Sioux access to liquor without being prosecuted or sued under civil rights laws.

6 Ed 02.10.12 at 12:05 pm

I wonder if they sell alcohol in their casinos?

7 antiredistributionist 02.10.12 at 12:41 pm

Say, who was it that introduced white settlers to tobacco? I smells me some reparations.

8 KDP 02.10.12 at 12:48 pm

The solution is so simple. Build a twenty foot high fence to keep the people on the reservation and ban all liquor within a five-hundred mile radius of the reservation.

9 Flemur 02.10.12 at 1:05 pm
10 John Fembup 02.10.12 at 1:52 pm

Ronald McDonald, are you listening?

11 Ron Miler 02.10.12 at 3:45 pm

I love how these comments attack and propose discrimination against everyone in the tribe over a lawsuit when I’m sure only a small portion of the tribe was involved in the decision to file suit. The generosity of spirit warms my heart.

If a black person brought a civil right action, would you be so blaze about suggesting discrimination against all blacks? Can’t you just attack the merits of the lawsuit which is pretty low hanging fruit anyway?

12 mojo 02.10.12 at 4:49 pm

The Oglala have been nothing but trouble since they first tried to strong-arm Lewis and Clark.

13 Rich 02.10.12 at 8:57 pm

Several years ago I clipped a cartoon. It showed a lawyer questioning a farmer on the witness stand. The lawyer asked, “So you’re the farmer that raised the corn that was sold to the distillary to make into alcohol which got my client drunk and caused him to have and accident?”

The country needs loser pays.

14 Hugo S. Cunningham 02.10.12 at 10:38 pm

@Rich
I don’t see that loser pays would automatically improve things. If juries are in the habit of upholding what we consider unfair lawsuits, then the victim of the unfair lawsuit will pay the plaintiff’s costs. Or are you proposing some kind of one-way costs, only against the initiator of a lawsuit? That might be especially attractive for libel lawsuits, as a threat to free speech unless based on solid grounds.
In my State, there are one-way costs against defendant insurance companies when they try to dodge a legitimate claim.

15 Melvin H. 02.11.12 at 5:44 pm

Let’s see: 12,500 cans per day/24 cans per case = about 521 cases per day of beer…divided four ways is about 130 cases per day per store… Sure seems like a lot of beer, for four stores, in an area that is not a large urban area; how does this compare to what a liquor store would sell normally? (I realize states are different when it comes to how and who can sell beer, etc.).

16 smart dude 02.11.12 at 7:24 pm

If the Oglala Sioux were serious about this problem in the slightest, they would (as “ps” suggested) make it a felony for any member of the Oglala Sioux tribe to purchase or consume alcohol.

There would be a permanent roadblock by tribal authorities on the road from Whiteclay doing breatholyzers on anyone entering the reservation and inspecting all vehicles for any firewater.

This is simply a scam by some members of the jackpot justice bar, getting the signatures of the tribal authorities on a fast buck settlement scheme.

17 Hugo S. Cunningham 02.12.12 at 3:24 pm

@Smart Dude–
It would suffice to make alcohol possession a misdemeanor, provided the roadblocks were set up as you describe. But I suppose you were modeling the draconian penalties after our War on (Some) Drugs.

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