Emergency responders from out of state may soon be protected from lawsuits for executing their duties in Idaho.
The House State Affairs approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, which he drafted in response to a tragedy at Bear Lake on the southern border of the state . Gibbs said that in 1999, 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 protected the state from liability in the dispute.
Gibbs that said because of the lawsuit, the Rich County ambulance service will transport injured citizens to the state line and then wait for an ambulance from an Idaho county to come and take the victim to Bear County Hospital, which is the closest medical facility to the lake. Gibbs calls that practice "unacceptable."
Under the Gibbs plan, out-of-state responders would have the same protections offered to in-state responders. Idaho code allows emergency responders, working in "good faith," protection from liability in lawsuits. The law doesn't offer complete immunity from litigation, however. Responders who are found to have caused an injury to an individual due to negligence or reckless behavior can still be made liable for a lawsuit. Out-of-state emergency personnel would be subject to the same provisions.
Though it was derived from the Bear Lake incident on Idaho's border with Utah, the bill is meant to protect all out-of-state responders, not only those from bordering states. Gibbs said that he wants the state to be prepared in this policy area should Idaho sustain a natural disaster requiring the services of personnel from several other states.
The bill passed on a unanimous committee vote and now moves to the House floor for consideration.
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