The Ohio House of Representatives Commerce, Labor and Technology Committee took testimony January 29 regarding the AIA Ohio-endorsed “Good Samaritan” bill, HB 379, which would provide civil immunity for architects, engineers, and surveyors who provide services during a declared emergency.
Rep. Blessing and Rep. Landis said in sponsor testimony the measure was brought to them by AIA Ohio. Currently, there are no protections against civil suits for those working in an official capacity during an emergency, such as a tornado, Rep. Landis said, but often, “qualified engineers, surveyors and architects are the only people that can effectively assess the situation for search and rescue teams.”
The sponsors explained that registered engineers and surveyors as well as certified architects are eligible for the immunity as long as a state or federal emergency is declared and their services are requested by an official body such as the governor or local law enforcement.
A provision was added at the request of the Ohio Association for Justice to ensure that no immunity is give in the case of wanton, willful or intentional misconduct, Rep. Blessing said.
In response to a question from Rep. Barborak, Rep. Blessing said the immunity only applies for the time of the declared emergency and issues with permanent structures after that date are open to civil litigation.
Rep. Barborak questioned the legislation’s intent, asking if such measures that create immunity are simply saying that a standard of care is only necessary to live up to when a professional is being paid for his or her work.
Rep. Landis said the bill was proposed to encourage volunteerism from those workers who are already skilled and take great care and pride in their business or profession.