Market Liability

Brief Explanation of the Drug Dealer Liability Act (DDLA) and Market Liability:

Another driver on the highway, feeling invincible from a cocaine high, is driving at a very high rate of speed and as a result crashes into your car. You and your passengers are severely injured and your new car is totaled. The coke using driver is jobless, without insurance and cannot pay for your injuries even if you sued him.

If you could only prove who the drug dealers were in the entire chain of distribution to the driver you could sue and recover damages from them. But, how would you find out who they are? The other driver almost certainly won’t tell. Even if he did identify his dealer, that person would not likely disclose the person from whom he got the cocaine. Would you and your lawyer then be stuck with a case with significant damages but no one to sue who bears some responsibility for your injuries. In those states that have passed the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act, the answer is a resounding “No!” because Yes! all of the drug dealers in the community involved could be sued.

You see, the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act allows a victim to sue any dealer in the driver’s community as long as they were dealing cocaine, during the time the other driver was a user of cocaine. This is called “market liability” under the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act.

State legislatures in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah and the U.S. Virgin Islands have passed the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act recognizing that innocent people suffer injuries because of the use of illegal drugs and that the dealers of those drugs should be held responsible.

The problem of course, was that those who traffic in illegal drugs don’t maintain records of their sales or willingly disclose who is in the chain of distribution to particular users in a community. So, those state legislatures solved that problem by passing the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act which imposes liability on any dealer in the user’s community whose actions caused injury to others. They just have to be a dealer of the same illegal drug, during the time that user was using and the same community as the user. The plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant dealer’s drugs were actually sold to the user who caused the injury.

How does your lawyer find out who those people are? If the user isn’t going to disclose all the dealers he knows in his community, then principally by looking up the courthouse records of indicted or convicted drug dealers. If they have already been convicted in the criminal case, that conviction is proof of the fact that they were a dealer, making the proof in the civil case that much easier. What’s more, the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act uses their home, work and school addresses as the places that they were dealing for the purposes of the Act.

A South Dakota woman, her husband killed by a driver high on methamphetamine, obtained a judgment under the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act after trial in the amount of $268 Million. A Utah woman whose husband became addicted to cocaine and lost his profession and license sued under the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act and the defendant dealer settled before trial. The siblings of a Michigan drug baby whose mother bludgeoned her to death at age two got a judgment from two drug dealers under Michigan’s Model Drug Dealer Liability Act. Their lawyer could not prove that they were the dealers whose drugs got the mother high when she bludgeoned the baby to death. They didn’t have to. The “market liability” provisions of the Act imposes liability on any dealer in the harm causing drug user’s community as long as they were dealing the same kind of drug in that user’s community during the time the user was using that drug.

While in the South Dakota and Michigan cases mentioned here, the plaintiffs didn’t recover the amounts awarded by the courts, the judgments themselves are a start. In fact, many presume that all of convicted drug dealers’ assets are forfeited when they are prosecuted anyway. This is not necessarily so. Forfeiture laws only permit the forfeiture of assets that are either derived from drug dealing or used to facilitate it. So, an inheritance, a home purchased with legitimate income or a separate legal business are not forfeited, they are subject to being used to pay a civil judgment.