Good Samaritan bill puts lives over lawsuits

We have all heard of the tragic stories of children overheating because they were left in the back seat of a car for hours in the sun.

I was proud to support legislation recently approved by the Michigan Senate to excuse a person from civil liability for damage caused by breaking into a car to save a child.

This bill is about putting saving lives ahead of lawsuits by making sure that if a Good Samaritan has reason to believe that breaking a car window is necessary to save the life of a child, they won’t be sued for acting.

Senate Bill 566 would provide civil immunity to an individual who forcibly enters a vehicle to save a minor who is reasonably believed to be in danger.

Unfortunately, we are seeing more of these types of emergencies and tragedies each year. Ten Michigan children have died of heatstroke while locked in a car since 1998. Since a child cannot regulate temperature changes like an adult, they are more vulnerable to heat.

To receive immunity from civil liability for any damage done to a vehicle, a person would have to meet several requirements, such as determining that the vehicle was locked and there was no reasonable way to gain entry to the car or for the child to exit the vehicle and having a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances known at the time, that forcibly entering the vehicle was necessary because a child was in danger.

The Good Samaritan would also have to contact the local law enforcement agency or fire department before or after forcibly entering the vehicle; place a notice on the windshield with his or her contact information, the reason for the entry, the child’s location and a statement that the local authorities had been notified; and remain with the child in a safe location until a law enforcement officer, firefighter or other emergency responder arrived.

In the end, this is about common sense. Having a Good Samaritan save the life of someone’s child is more important than allowing that person to sue for the cost of replacing a broken window.

 

Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents Southwest Michigan.

 

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