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PETERSON-BUCCO-CIATTARELLI FIRST RESPONDER LIABILITY BILL CLEARS COMMITTEE
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Republicans Erik Peterson, Anthony M. Bucco and Jack M. Ciattarelli that provides immunity from civil liability for first responder entities, such as first aid, rescue and emergency squads, was approved today by the Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee.
The three lawmakers introduced the bill in response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that civil immunity did not extend to the volunteer squad itself, but only to the first responders. The Supreme Court case which prompted this legislation involved the Plainfield Rescue Squad which was alleged to have unreasonably and therefore, negligently delayed the transport of a gunshot victim to a nearby hospital, thereby causing his death. A trial court found that both the individual members of the rescue squad and the rescue squad as an entity was statutorily immune from the suit and an Appellate Division concurred.
The New Jersey Supreme Court, however, ruled that while current law provides immunity from civil liability for compensated and volunteer individuals of first aid, rescue and emergency squads, the law does not provide immunity to a rescue squad as an entity. It noted that the statute cited to dismiss the claim against the rescue squad “conferred immunity on the individual EMTs, but not on the municipal entity that employed them.”
“In New Jersey we have very high standards for our first responders and we provide them with the best training possible. As a result, we have the best first responders in the country. Though we expect our first responders to meet these high standards on each and every call we can not allow our litigious society to bankrupt these organizations, many of which are all volunteer, when a mistake occurs because we will be placing our communities at risk of having no orginzation to answer a call for help,” said Peterson, R-Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset. “The issue in the Plainfield Rescue Squad case was whether current law provided immunity to the rescue squad as an entity, regardless of any alleged negligent delay in transporting the victim. This legislation will correct that flaw by expanding protection to towns and volunteer organizations, many of which are struggling to contain costs.”
Under current law, volunteer first aid, rescue and emergency squads, as well as their members, cannot be held liable for civil damages while providing life support services. Paid responders as individuals are also immune, but as an entity, they are not. The Peterson-Bucco-Ciattarelli bill, A-3282, would provide protection from civil liability to compensated emergency response organizations as a whole.
“First responders provide an invaluable service to our communities. They are well-trained, professional individuals who serve selflessly,” stated Bucco, R-Morris and Somerset, a 32-year member of the Boonton Volunteer Fire Department. “As individuals, they are rightly protected from liability under law. But they also don’t need to be second guessing themselves about the aid they are providing for fear of a lawsuit being filed against their town. This measure closes a loophole in the law that will allow emergency responders do the job they were retained to do while protecting the municipalities and volunteer organizations that employ them.”
“Emergency personnel are dedicated individuals who care deeply about their communities and the people they serve. Their jobs are difficult enough. Each day they are faced with life or death situations,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset. “While rendering aid, they shouldn’t have to be concerned that their actions may put their town at risk of a lawsuit.”
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Assemblyman Erik Peterson / 908-238-0251
Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco / 973-927-2526
Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli / 908-252-0800
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