Governor Mary Fallin recently signed House Bill 2419, a “good Samaritan” law which addresses liability concerns for citizens seeking to provide a safe haven to others during tornadoes and other severe weather.
“We want to encourage neighbors to help neighbors, especially during severe weather, and that’s what this law is all about,” Fallin said. “No one should have the fear of a lawsuit hanging over their head simply for opening their home or business to someone in need of shelter during a storm or tornado. This law protects citizens acting in good faith, and ultimately it may help us to save lives.”
Last month, Fallin vetoed HB 2296, a law which sought to address liability concerns for owners of mobile home parks who opened their offices up as shelters. Fallin said the original bill, while well-intentioned, was fatally flawed. HB 2419 addresses the concerns raised by Fallin and improves upon the original bill. Fallin said the veto and subsequent work by the Legislature has resulted in better policy.
“This process has been an exercise in cooperation between the governor’s office and the Legislature that has given us a remarkably better bill than the one sent to my desk last month. I applaud our legislators for their dedication to providing a legal environment that is conducive to increased safety during inclement weather. My thanks go out especially to Representative John Enns, House Speaker Kris Steele and Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman for sending me a bill which I am proud to sign into law.”
Fallin said the new bill improves upon HB 2296 in three major ways.
“House Bill 2296 had three major flaws, all of which have now been addressed in HB 2419,” Fallin said. “First, the original bill had the potential to provide amnesty to individuals who encouraged the residents of mobile home parks to take shelter in structures that were unsafe. This could have had the unfortunate and unintended consequence of actually putting lives in jeopardy rather than protecting them. That was obviously not the intent of the authors of the bill, which is why I vetoed the legislation. House Bill 2419, on the other hand, addresses that problem by defining ‘safe place’ and adding an exception for both ‘willful or wanton negligence’ and ‘misconduct.’ The improved legislation protects citizens acting in good faith, as intended, without protecting those who willfully put the lives of others in jeopardy.
“Second, the original legislation treated the owners of mobile home parks as a special class, which is legally suspect. This problem is fixed in HB 2419 by including all individuals and businesses rather than singling out mobile home park owners. This not only addresses potential legal and constitutional issues, it dramatically increases the scope and effectiveness of the bill by including any citizen or business acting in good faith.
“Finally, the original legislation would not have gone into effect until November of this year. Today’s bill takes effect immediately. This is especially significant as it will be in effect before this year’s tornado season ends.”
House Bill 2419 was authored by Reps. John Enns, Eric Proctor, Joe Dorman, Sally Kern, Jeff Hickman, Sean Roberts and Jadine Nollan as well as Sens. Rob Johnson and Ralph Shortey. It takes effect immediately.