BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — A bill advanced in the state legislature Monday allowing courts to hold people and foreign countries accountable for bringing fentanyl into the state.
HB 586, dubbed “Jaja’s Law,” is in memory of a 21-year old woman who died after taking drugs she didn’t know were laced with fentanyl. The bill by State Rep. John Stefanski (R-Crowley) would allow victims to sue people or foreign states for damages resulting from an unintended ingestion of illicit fentanyl that results in serious bodily injury or death.
The bill is in addition to another bill submitted by Stefanski, HB 90, that would create harsher criminal penalties for those convicted of trafficking in fentanyl.
The proposed law would put the burden of proof on the person or foreign country. Under the proposed law, any defendant, either a person or a country being sued, would have to prove that they did not engage in illicit fentanyl trafficking at any time within six months of the unintended ingestion of fentanyl that led to the lawsuit.
“The intent really is to hold those who are bringing illicit and illegal fentanyl to our country,” Stefanski said. “And it’s pretty well documented, actually, where it’s coming from. It’s coming across our southern border. And it’s being delivered to those countries through China.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that the DEA says is many times stronger than morphine and heroin. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a pain reliever and anesthetic, historically for use by cancer patients and during or after surgery. But the drug also is illegally manufactured in liquid, powder and pill form and trafficked into the U.S. from countries such as China, India and Mexico.
Some lawmakers question how these court cases would actually play out and how payment would be made. But the bill advanced out of the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure to the full house without objection.