Illinois high court nixes collective-geographic-liability law on drug overdoses

Over a dissent from two of its justices, the Illinois Supreme Court has struck down a law purporting to establish collectivized liability for drug overdoses: “Illinois state law allows family members of people who overdose to sue anyone within a given geographic area who sold or distributed the same kind of drug. Illinois Supreme Court: It violates due process for a plaintiff to recover a lot of money from a person who had no connection at all to the drug user. Dissent: Although the law ‘pushes the boundary of civil liability by dispensing with traditional notions of causation,’ we’re meant to be more deferential to the legislature under the rational basis test.'” [John K. Ross, IJ “Short Circuit” on Wingert v. Hradisky (citing parallel “market share liability” doctrines; “At least 18 states and one territory of the United States have adopted the Model Act or some version of [the Model Drug Dealer Liability Act]”)]


  • This result fits right in with the federal interpretations of the commerce clause. Growing wheat or selling pills are subject to broad civil authority. It’s always the freelancers who cause the problems. But a bushel is a bushel and a pill is a pill no matter where it comes from. That seems to be the law.

  • The MDDLA . . ., not this result. Dang.

  • Apportionment by market share might make sense in highly selective situations where guilt is established for each member of the groups from which a proportionate claim might be made.

    The legislature seems to be moving forward with the conclusion that guilt is foregone and that trial to establish guilt is perfunctory.
    But how does one go about defending such a case in the first place when there are a number of corporate defendants, with disparate interests. A financially flush company with little market exposure might be looking to settle quick, while a smaller company but with a larger share of that particular drug, might be looking for very different defense strategy. Just how can a collective of defendants be brought to trial at once?