Legislation that would overrule a recent court ruling regarding the liability of New Jersey municipalities when it comes to their emergency response operations is advancing through both the state Senate and Assembly.
As we have previously discussed on this New Jersey Government & Law Blog, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that rescue squads that provide intermediate and basic life support services are not immune from suit. The case centered on the court’s interpretation of N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, which lawmakers now seek to amend.
Versions of the legislation have now been unanimously passed by both the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and, most recently, the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. A full vote may come as early as April, according to Senate co-sponsor Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Somerset.
Under the bills (A-3282 and S-2165), N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29 would be amended to clarify that first aid, ambulance or rescue squads, as well as their officers and members, are not liable for any civil damages as the result of an act or the omission of an act committed while in training for or in the rendering of intermediate life support services in good faith. Intermediate life support includes common procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation.
The amendments also clarify that civil immunity applies to “hybrid” squads, which may not meet the statutory definition of a volunteer or nonvolunteer squad. They often are comprised of volunteers but receive some reimbursement from the government.
We will continue to track the status of this legislation and will provide updates as they become available.
For more information about this legislation or how it may impact your municipality, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Public Law Group.