ANNAPOLIS – Drug users could sue their dealers under a bill pushed by a state lawmaker from inner-city Baltimore.
The Drug Dealer Liability Act, sponsored by Del. Salima Siler Marriott, would let anyone harmed by drug use sue the person who sold the drug.
In addition to users themselves, authorized plaintiffs would include users’ parents, siblings and employers. People who can claim they were harmed by their mother’s drug use while they were in the womb could also sue, as could hospitals and government agencies that run drug-treatment programs.
“If you hurt someone, and you have money, you should pay for the harm,” said Marriott, a Democrat.
To be eligible as plaintiffs, users would have to cooperate with police and be off drugs six months before their case is filed and while it is pending.
Dealers would be liable for medical expenses, emotional suffering, absenteeism and any other harm caused by consumption of their contraband wares. They would also be responsible for attorneys’ fees.
Marriott said the bill is modeled on an Oklahoma law adopted in 1994. A hearing on the measure was held in the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. No one testified against it.
Marriott said she introduced the bill after surveying constituents in the Park Heights area of West Baltimore, where some residents cannot invite guests to their home because “the only way they can get to their home is to drive through an open- air drug market.”
The constitutents “feel absolutely under seige by drug distribution,” Marriott said.
Holding pushers accountable for their injuries is a good idea, according to the Baltimore County Police Department, which issued a statement backing the bill. “The trafficking of illegal drugs will continue to grow as long as the profit from such activity continues unchecked,” the police department said. -30-