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Search and rescue worker immunity bill clears House

Search and rescue worker immunity bill clears House

Dustin Hurst
March 12, 2010
Dustin Hurst
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March 12, 2010

The second bill of the legislative session giving emergency personnel immunity from lawsuits while acting in "good faith" passed the House on a 63-0 vote Thursday.

The House voted earlier in the session to grant immunity to emergency workers from out of state who sometimes operate in Idaho.  Those workers, also working in "good faith," would be shielded from lawsuits as a result of the legislation.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, awaits a Senate hearing.

Killen said that the state has 31 search and rescue teams that can respond upon the call of a local sheriff.  At a previous hearing on the bill, Killen said that though not every county has one, teams are spread out geographically throughout the state.

Though teams throughout the state are typically comprised of volunteers to perform the work, not all volunteers who show up at a search would be covered by the protection.  The bill specifies that only search and rescue workers called on by a county sheriff would be granted immunity and only during the actual time of the search and rescue operation.  Killen said that though teams are comprised of volunteers, members are “well-trained and not just people off the street.”

Even with the protection in place, the provision wouldn’t offer complete immunity.  The bill states that a search and rescue must be acting in “good faith” and “with the absence of gross negligence.”  Those not meeting those requirements will still be subject to litigation, though a judge will be allowed to decide if a worker act with “gross negligence” if a lawsuit is brought forward.

Killen's measure now joins Gibbs' in the Senate.

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