Tennessee Code Title 29. Remedies and Special Proceedings § 29-38-103

The legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1) Every community in the country is affected by the marketing and distribution of illegal drugs.  A vast amount of state and local resources is expended in coping with the financial, physical, and emotional toll that results from the existence of the illegal drug market.  Families, employers, insurers, and society in general bear the substantial costs of coping with the marketing of illegal drugs.  Drug babies and parents, particularly those of adolescent illegal drug users, suffer significant noneconomic injury, as well;

(2) Although the criminal justice system is an important weapon against the illegal drug market, the civil justice system can and must also be used.  The civil justice system can provide an avenue of compensation for those who have suffered harm as a result of the marketing and distribution of illegal drugs.  The persons who have joined the illegal drug market should bear the cost of the harm caused by that market in the community;

(3) The threat of liability under this chapter serves as an additional deterrent to a recognizable segment of the illegal drug network.  A person who has nondrug related assets, who markets illegal drugs at the workplace, who encourages friends to become users, among others, is likely to decide that the added cost of entering the market is not worth the benefit.  This is particularly true for a first-time casual dealer who has not yet made substantial profits.  This chapter provides a mechanism for the cost of the injury caused by illegal drug use to be borne by those who benefit from illegal drug dealing;

(4) This chapter imposes liability against all participants in the illegal drug market, including small dealers, particularly those in the workplace, who are not usually the focus of criminal investigations.  The small dealers increase the number of users and are those people who become large dealers.  These small dealers are most likely to be deterred by the threat of liability;

(5) A parent of an adolescent illegal drug user often expends considerable financial resources, typically in the tens of thousands of dollars, for the child's drug treatment.  Local and state governments provide drug treatment and related medical services made necessary by the distribution of illegal drugs.  The treatment of drug babies is a considerable cost to local and state governments.  Insurers pay large sums for medical treatment related to drug addiction and use.  Employers suffer losses as a result of illegal drug use by employees due to lost productivity, employee drug-related workplace accidents, and employer contributions to insurers.  Local and state governments have existing legal staffs that can bring civil suits against those involved in the illegal drug market, in appropriate cases, if a clear legal mechanism for liability and recovery is established;

(6) Drug babies, who are clearly the most innocent and vulnerable of those affected by illegal drug use, are often the most physically and mentally damaged due to the existence of an illegal drug market in a community.  For many of these babies, the only hope is extensive medical and psychological treatment, physical therapy, and special education.  All of these potential remedies are expensive.  These babies, through their legal guardians and through court appointed guardians ad litem, should be able to recover damages from those in the community who have entered and participated in the marketing of the types of illegal drugs that have caused their injuries;

(7) In theory, civil actions for damages for distribution of illegal drugs can be brought under existing law.  They are not.  Several barriers account for this.  Under existing tort law, only those dealers in the actual chain of distribution to a particular user could be sued.  Drug babies, parents of adolescent illegal drug users, and insurers are not likely to be able to identify the chain of distribution to a particular user.  Furthermore, drug treatment experts largely agree that users are unlikely to identify and bring suit against their own dealers, even after they have recovered, given the present requirements for a civil action;

(8) Those involved in the illegal drug market in a community are necessarily interrelated and interdependent, even if their identity is unknown to one another.  Each new dealer obtains the benefit of the existing illegal drug distribution system to make illegal drugs available to the dealer.  In addition, the existing market aids a new entrant by the prior development of people as users.  Many experts on the illegal drug market agree that all participants are ultimately likely to be indirectly related.  That is, beginning with any one dealer, given the theoretical ability to identify every person known by that dealer to be involved in illegal drug trafficking, and in turn each of such others known to the dealer, and so on, the illegal drug market in a community would ultimately be fully revealed;

(9) Market liability has been created with respect to legitimate products by judicial decision in some states.  Case law provides for civil recovery by plaintiffs who are unable to identify the particular manufacturer of the product that is claimed to have caused them harm, allowing recovery from all manufacturers of the product who participated in that particular market.  The market liability theory has been shown to be destructive of market initiative and product development when applied to legitimate markets.  Because of its potential for undermining markets, this chapter expressly adopts a legislatively crafted form of liability for those who intentionally join the illegal drug market.  The liability established by this chapter grows out of, but is distinct from, existing judicially crafted market liability;

(10) The prospect of a future suit for the costs of drug treatment may drive a wedge between prospective dealers and their customers, by encouraging users to turn on their dealers.  Therefore, liability for those costs, even to the user, is imposed under this chapter, as long as the user identifies and brings suit against the user's own dealers;

(11) Allowing dealers who face a civil judgment for their illegal drug marketing to bring suit against their own sources for contribution may also drive a wedge into the relationships among some participants in the illegal drug distribution network;

(12) While not all persons who have suffered losses as a result of the marketing of illegal drugs will pursue an action for damages, at least some individuals, guardians of drug babies, government agencies that provide treatment, insurance companies, and employers will find such an action worthwhile.  These persons deserve the opportunity to recover their losses.  Some new entrants to retail drug dealing are likely to be deterred, even if only a few of these suits are actually brought.

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