By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS — A bill to be introduced in the Ohio Senate Tuesday would make illegal-drug dealers accountable for the damage done by the narcotics they sell.
The Drug Dealer Liability Act, sponsored by state Sen. Bruce Johnson (R., Columbus), would allow anyone harmed by an individual’s drug problem to sue the suppliers and manufacturers of the drug. Mr. Johnson said the bill targets what dealers cherish most: their bank accounts, flashy cars, and expensive mansions.
“There’s an economic reality that, in too many cases, crime pays, and drug trafficking pays,” he said. “We want to remove the economic incentive in drug trafficking.”
The bill would benefit parents, insurance companies, hospitals, or anyone else harmed by an individual’s drug abuse. For example, the bill would let parents of a drug addict sue a dealer for the cost of a drug-rehabilitation program. State hospitals could recover costs in treating babies born addicted to cocaine.
And if an addict overdosed and died, anyone involved in the manufacture, distribution, or sale of the lethal drug could face a multi-million dollar judgment against them.
Similar bills have been passed in 10 other states, including Indiana, Mr. Johnson said.
The bill is important because the threat of jail time isn’t enough to stop most dealers, the senator said. “For many of these traffickers, that price, that risk, may be something they’re willing to take.”
The most famous national proponent of such laws is actor Carroll O’Connor, who played Archie Bunker on television’s Mr. O’Connor’s son, Hugh, committed suicide in 1995 after battling a cocaine addiction.
Soon after his son’s death, Mr. O’Connor accused Harry Perzigian, a California songwriter, of being “a partner in murder.” Mr. Perzigian sued Mr. O’Connor for slander; he lost his case in July.