Out-of-state emergency personnel could soon receive immunity from lawsuits if they are acting in "good faith" under a bill proposed by Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace. Legislators in the House approved the plan, which now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Gibbs’ plan would allow emergency personnel from any state, not just those bordering Idaho, to receive immunity from lawsuits by citizens. Gibbs said the legislation stems from a 1999 incident in which Rich County, Utah, was named as a defendant in a lawsuit as a result of one of its ambulance units working in Idaho. The lawsuit was filed for $10 million, and the state of Idaho was also named as a defendant, but was dismissed from the suit because of Idaho law that protects the state from liability in the dispute.
In the committee hearing on the bill, Gibbs said he didn't want to specify only states sharing the border with Idaho under the plan in case Idaho suffered a natural disaster requiring emergency personnel from faraway states to come to aid in cleanup and disaster recovery efforts.
The plan does not give responders complete immunity, however. Those personnel who are shown to be acting recklessly or negligently during a rescue operation would still be liable for their actions. Responders in Idaho are subject to the same rules.
The bill contains an emergency clause, which would make it law upon the signature of Gov. Butch Otter, should the measure be passed by the Senate. Gibbs said the clause will allow the protections to go into effect before the Memorial Day weekend, which is the busiest time of the year at Bear Lake in southeastern Idaho.
(Note: Gibbs also successfully pushed through a bill hiking the fee on death certificates in Idaho by $1. Read about it here.)
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