The family of a 20-year-old woman killed in a car crash involving an underage drunk driver is suing Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Co. The lawsuit, filed yesterday, claims that the companies are waging a marketing assault on California's youth by intentionally targeting minors through advertising on media heavily trafficked by underage consumers, developing products designed to obscure the difference between alcoholic beverages and soda pop, and supporting promotions appealing to a primarily underage audience.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that the brewers are clearly violating California law by promoting and facilitating underage drinking with reckless disregard for human life and the well-being of the public.

In a statement, Steve Berman, attorney for the plaintiffs, said: "Anheuser-Busch and Miller are inflating their profits at the expense of public safety and health. 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."

Plaintiffs Lynne and Reed Goodwin lost their 20-year-old daughter, Casey , when an underage drunk driver crashed into her.

"Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch are getting away with grooming children to be customers before they are of legal drinking age," said Lynne Goodwin. "In my view based on what I have read they are pushing gateway drugs with lethal consequences."

The statement says that both manufacturers produce RTDs such as Anheuser-Busch's Doc Otis' Hard Lemon Malt Beverage and Miller's Jack Daniel's Original Hard Cola that closely resemble soda pop with sweet flavours, bright colours and youthful packaging.

The suit asks the court to compel Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing to immediately cease marketing to children. In addition, it requests that the defendants account for profits gained through their illegal activity and pay appropriate restitution.

"Our children deserve the protection guaranteed by our current laws, laws now disregarded by Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing," Berman said. "It's time to end the relentless barrage of propaganda pressuring young people to engage in reckless and illegal behaviour."

Officials at Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing could not immediately be reached for comment.