Dana Young files bill to expand ‘Good Samaritan’ law

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The leader of the Florida House of Representatives’ Republican caucus has filed a bill to protect those who break into cars to rescue “children, elderly persons, disabled adults, or pets.”

State Rep. Dana Young of Tampa on Wednesday filed changes (HB 131) to Florida’s “Good Samaritan Act” that would make a bona fide do-gooder “immune from civil liability,” meaning exempt from being sued for damages.

The idea is to encourage people to save those at risk who are stuck in hot vehicles.

Good Samaritan laws were enacted in many states because, under common law, there is no legal duty to rescue someone from a dangerous situation if one didn’t place the other person in danger. A New York court even held that transit system employees couldn’t be held liable because they did not actively rescue a woman being raped in a subway station.

“The time has come to empower ordinary citizens to come forward and help prevent senseless tragedies,” Young said in a news release.

“In Florida, 23 children and elderly persons have died from vehicular heat stroke since 2010, including four that have died so far this year,” Young said, adding that her bill “appears to be the most comprehensive in the nation in extending liability protection not only to rescuing children, but to rescuing elderly persons, disabled adults and pets.”

Young’s bill, however, specifically does not include “livestock or other farm animals.”

Among other things, the legislation requires that a would-be rescuer:

  • First make sure the vehicle is locked and then call 911.
  • Believe that the person or animal inside is “in imminent danger of suffering harm.”
  • Use “no more force to enter the vehicle … than necessary,” usually smashing a window.

The current law in Florida covers people, including doctors, who “render emergency care or treatment” in an emergency situation “without objection of the injured victim.” The name comes from a biblical story told by Jesus about being a true “neighbor.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.