Good Samaritan protection for construction volunteers

|  May 03, 2011 |

Contractors, engineers and architects who respond to the immediate needs of a disaster such as the Alabama tornado do so at their own risk. That is why the Associated General Contractors of America is supporting legislation — introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this March – that would give these companies Good Samaritan coverage in all states.

AGC points out that construction-related companies offer critical expertise during disasters, donating knowledgeable people and essential construction equipment. Unfortunately in many states – including Alabama – there is no protection for these first responder contractors until they start doing work under contract.

The association points to companies who responded to 9/11 in both New York City and Arlington, Virginia. In many cases, contracts for the work were not awarded until 30 days after the attacks, leaving the companies without adequate insurance during the critical first weeks. As a result, some faced lawsuits stemming from this uninsured time.

AGC seeks legislation that gives these companies limited immunity from liability for negligence when responding to declared emergencies or disasters. This limited immunity would end when contracts are awarded and does not cover gross negligence or willful misconduct. All protected work must be done under the direction of a public official acting in an official capacity.

According to AGC, 24 states currently have some form of Good Samaritan law, but they vary in scope, coverage and substance. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and New York do not have any type of a Good Samaritan law on the books. “The fear of lawsuits should not make contractors hesitate, or decide not to assist, in times of need,” says the association.

A copy of the legislation is below:

Good Samaritan Protection for Construction, Architectural, and Engineering Volunteers Act (Introduced in House – IH)

HR 1145 IH

112th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 1145

To provide construction, architectural, and engineering entities with qualified immunity from liability for negligence when providing services or equipment on a volunteer basis in response to a declared emergency or disaster.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 17, 2011

Mr. REICHERT (for himself, Mr. MATHESON, Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California, and Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To provide construction, architectural, and engineering entities with qualified immunity from liability for negligence when providing services or equipment on a volunteer basis in response to a declared emergency or disaster.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Good Samaritan Protection for Construction, Architectural, and Engineering Volunteers Act’.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

The Congress finds the following:

(1) The construction, architectural, and engineering industries provide a valuable service in times of disasters and emergencies.

(2) The construction, architectural, and engineering industries answered the call on September 11, 2001, and the days afterwards to assist in the search, recovery, and clean-up efforts in New York City and Arlington, Virginia, as well as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

(3) The expertise and equipment brought forth for the search, recovery, and other efforts greatly advanced and improved the efficiency of these efforts.

(4) Such efforts by the construction, architectural, and engineering industries make it safer for police, firefighters, and other rescue workers to work on search and recovery efforts.

(5) The services provided by the construction, architectural, and engineering industries improve the safety of the public by the assessment, containment, and mitigation of conditions that threaten life and property.

(6) Construction companies and architectural and engineering entities were faced with lawsuits as a result of their voluntary efforts on behalf of their fellow citizens in New York City and the Gulf Coast.

(7) Providing construction contractors and architectural and engineering entities qualified immunity from liability when providing services in this type of volunteer activity helps to ensure that such services will be available in the future in times of need.

SEC. 3. PROVISION OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY FOR NEGLIGENCE TO CONSTRUCTION, ARCHITECTURAL, AND ENGINEERING ENTITIES WHEN PROVIDING SERVICES OR EQUIPMENT ON A VOLUNTEER BASIS IN RESPONSE TO A DECLARED EMERGENCY OR DISASTER.

(a) Liability Protection- When a construction entity provides emergency construction assistance, or an architectural or engineering entity provides emergency architectural or engineering assistance, on a voluntary basis, in good faith, and without expectation of compensation, and the entity or an employee of such entity negligently causes harm, the entity and the employee, if applicable, are not jointly, severally, or individually liable in damages for that harm. Nothing in this section shall be construed as providing immunity for gross negligence or willful misconduct.

(b) Definitions- In this section:

(1) The term `construction entity’ means a person, sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation in the regular business of providing construction assistance.

(2) The term `architectural or engineering entity’ means a person, sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation in the regular business of providing architectural or engineering assistance.

(3) The term `construction assistance’ means materials, labor, equipment, or services for construction-related activities, including construction, demolition, repair, clean-up, alteration, and remediation.

(4) The term `architectural or engineering assistance’ means professional services of an architectural or engineering nature, as defined by State law, if applicable, that are required to be performed or approved by a licensed professional architect or engineer.

(5) The terms `emergency construction assistance’ and `emergency architectural or engineering assistance’ mean construction assistance and architectural or engineering assistance, respectively, provided–

(A) at the direction of a public official acting in an official capacity; and

(B) in response to or arising out of a declared Federal, State, or local emergency or disaster, whether the assistance is provided before or after the formal declaration of emergency or disaster.

(c) Relationship to State Law-

(1) PREEMPTION- This section preempts the laws of any State to the extent that such laws are inconsistent with this section, except that it does not preclude a State from providing a higher amount of protection from liability, or from providing reimbursement for costs or expenses as authorized by State or local law.

(2) WORKERS COMPENSATION- This section does not apply to liability under workers compensation laws.

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