Without any opposition from lawmakers, Rep. Bill Killen's, D-Boise, bill providing lawsuit immunity protection to search and rescue workers passed easily through the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday and now heads to the House floor for a vote.
During the hearing, Killen said that the state has 30 search and rescue teams that can respond upon the call of a local sheriff. He said that while not every county has a team (there are 44 counties in Idaho), they are "pretty much 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. At a previous hearing on the measure and upon the questioning of Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, Killen explained that only those teams and volunteers specifically designated by a county sheriff would receive immunity from lawsuits.
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.