Families of fentanyl victims could sue drug distributors, countries under this Louisiana bill
A House committee on Monday advanced a bill that would make it easier for victims and their families to sue illicit fentanyl distributors and even countries in which the drugs were made.
Lafayette attorney Robert Broussard joined Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, to introduce the House Bill 586, which is intended to help deal with the nationwide increase in fentanyl-related deaths.
Broussard recalled how his daughter, JonTerez “Jaja” Antonia Broussard, was 20 years old when she unintentionally ingested fentanyl-laced drugs and died.
Broussard emphasized that she was the inspiration and motivation behind House Bill 586.
Broussard said the vast majority of fentanyl, a powerful opioid, being moved in the United States comes from China and is shipped through Mexico. Mexican cartels move the illicit fentanyl through the southern border, where it is passed out via American drug routes.
“I am going to sue China, the Mexican cartel and the person who killed my daughter,” Broussard said.
The House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure advanced the bill, which would create a specific civil tort claim over illicit fentanyl distribution. The bill also would shift the burden of proof to the defendants.
Rep. Lawrence Frieman, R- Abita Springs, along with other representatives, shared his condolences with Broussard. Frieman lost his brother to a fentanyl overdose six years ago.
While Frieman believed that taking action against the fentanyl epidemic was a must, he wondered how possible it would be to hold China, Mexico and the Mexican cartels accountable.
Stefanski, who is running for state attorney general, explained that under the bill, the government could seize property in the United States that belongs to China or Mexico. His goal was to “hold foreign countries accountable for the deaths they are causing.”
“This is about bringing them to their knees and hitting where it hurts,” Broussard said.
Frieman questioned whether this was just symbolic or if it could actually work.
Stefanski’s bill came six days after the Louisiana Senate voted 33-2 to pass Slidell Republican Sen. Sharon Hewitt’s Senate Bill 49. It would increase the maximum jail sentence from 15 to 40 years for people convicted of operating fentanyl labs.
The House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice advanced a bill by Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, providing instructions about how long criminal sentences should be in cases involving fentanyl trafficking.