I’m beginning research for a seminar paper I am writing on the topic of whether chemical addiction should be a compensable damage on the theory that addiction deprives an individual of a liberty interest. In particular, I am dealing with the case of tobacco. Currently, people are awarded damages in tobacco litigation based on the illness they undergo after a lifetime of smoking. Could it be possible that a person could claim damages for the liberty they have lost as a result of a chemical addiction?
It doesn’t seem to hard to draw a substantive right to liberty out of the due process clause; but this doesn’t apply to private individuals. What doctrine of common law could give rise to a cause of action for addiction? Might it be a contract issue: Does addiction prevent a person from negotiating at arm’s length? Might it be a tort issue: Does addiction lend itself well to a medical monitoring or increased risk claim? Would it have to be statutory? If so, what would the statute look like?
And what about a person’s right to choose to become addicted? Under what circumstances do we respect this choice? When they reach the age of 18? If so, do children who become addicted have a claim under a liberty interest? Does the sort of advertising private companies do to influence people’s decision to become addicted matter?
What is the medically accepted definition of a chemical addiction? How can addiction be best defined in order to include things like heroin and nicotine but exclude things like sugar and fatty food?
We don’t allow slavery or indentured servitude in the United States; there is evidence the founders found this abborhant to their conception of liberty. Is addiction similar to these, in that a choice made in the past binds a person to another private party for the rest of thier life?
Any answers that assist with my research would be appreciated. If you have no experience with legal research, please do not feel compelled to contribute to the thread.