Class action lawsuit claims beer and wine firms aim ads at underage drinkers

Diageo and other leading beer, wines and spirits companies could face a massive class action lawsuit, claiming they deliberately used advertising aimed at drinkers under the legal age of 21 in the US.

The suit, brought through the Strauss and Boies law firm, has been filed in the civil division of the Washington DC Superior Court. It was not immediately clear whether temperance groups or other organisations were involved.

Diageo is one of the world's largest manufacturers of alcoholic drinks. Its brands include Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray gin, Smirnoff vodka and Guinness. The other companies cited are some of the biggest names in the industry: the American brewing firm Coors, Heineken, Bacardi, and the Brown-Forman corporation whose brands include Jack Daniel's bourbon whiskey.

The Beer Institute (the US trade association) and two leading wines and spirits distributors, Kobrand and the Mark Anthony Group, were also named. The suit claims that the defendants "actively marketed certain of their products directly to under-age individuals". The punishment sought includes the return of profits accruing from such sales, and punitive and treble damages. In a statement, the company said it would "vigorously defend" the case, insisting its advertising and marketing was directed at adults of legal drinking age. Diageo said it was "proud of its marketing code and its efforts towards discouraging under-age drinking and alcohol misuse". The precise status of the suit is unclear. To proceed, a class-action suit must be first be accepted by a judge.

"It looks as if they're saying that some of our advertising appeals to kids, and now they're looking for parents whose kids have suffered from under-age drinking to sign up," an industry source said.

Class-action suits are notoriously unpredictable. Billions of dollars are at stake in actions such as those against tobacco companies.

Some are not admitted by judges. Others can lead to massive damages, and huge financial windfalls, if not to everyone who signs up to the suit, at least to the law firms that bring them. The lucrative practice has also led to "venue shopping" where lawyers seek out jurisdictions most sympathetic to such actions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border