Tort Action For Sale Of Habit-Forming Drug To A Spouse

Family Law: Marital Duties & Rights

Torts: Damages: Consortium Damages

Most states have enacted statutes that prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors to a person who is intoxicated or who is known to be addicted to alcohol. These statutes may also extend to the sale of a habit-forming drug to a person who is known to be addicted to drugs. A spouse may be entitled to an action under these statutes, which action is similar to the common law tort action for the sale of a habit-forming drug to a spouse.

A spouse who files an action for the sale of a habit-forming drug to his or her spouse is known as the deprived spouse. The spouse who has been sold the habit-forming drug is known as the impaired spouse.

A deprived spouse's action against a defendant for the sale of a habit-forming drug is different than an action against the defendant for a tort that is committed against the impaired spouse. The deprived spouse's action is not a derivative action. Even if the impaired spouse consents to the sale or is contributorily negligent, the deprived spouse is entitled to the action.

A defendant who sells a habit-forming drug to an impaired spouse is liable to a deprived spouse if he or she knew that the habit-forming drug would be used by the impaired spouse in a manner that would be injurious to the impaired spouse's health, if he or she knew that the drug would not be used for proper medicinal purposes, or if he or she knew that the drug would be used to satisfy the impaired spouse's addiction. The deprived spouse does not need to forbid the sale. The deprived spouse only needs to show that he or she did not consent to the sale and that the sale was not made in accordance with a valid prescription. The fact that the sale did not violate a criminal statute is not a defense.

A defendant who sells a habit-forming drug to an impaired spouse is liable to a deprived spouse for the harm that results to the deprived spouse's marital interests. Such marital interests include a loss of the services or support of the impaired spouse. The marital interests also include a loss of the impaired spouse's affections and sexual relations. The deprived spouse is also entitled to damages for medical expenses that he or she incurs for the impaired spouse's medical treatment as a result of the habit-forming drug. The deprived spouse is further entitled to any other expenses that he or she incurs as a result of the sale, such as the cost of a drug rehabilitation program.

Copyright 2009 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.