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Merrimack Valley

February 20, 2014

Good Samaritan law update nearing approval

An off-duty firefighter or police officer who helps a citizen in need can still be sued if something goes awry as a result of their help, under the state law.

The State House is hoping to change that.

A bill that would extend liability protection to off-duty emergency personnel is making its way through the legislature.

Currently, people who are not first responders and who make a good faith effort to help a person have some liability protection for the results of their help. The bill extends that liability protection to off-duty firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and others whose regular duties involve the provision of emergency medical care.

Acting Lawrence Fire Chief John Marsh thought that provision was already in the books.

“I’m surprised it isn’t,” he said. “It makes sense to have it.”

The bill was filed by former Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, whose husband is a captain in the Chelsea Fire Department. The legislation still requires enactment in the Senate and the signature of the governor to become law.

“Sometimes in society people come up short and look for a way to sue people,” Marsh said. “This is a totally a case of no good deed goes unpunished.”

Marsh said this could prevent or hinder some off-duty emergency personnel from helping.

“I could see it weighing on people’s minds,” he said. “No one wants to get sued for doing the right thing.”

However, Marsh said he believes himself and the majority of emergency personnel would still act to help.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to help and I’m sure many others wouldn’t hesitate,” he said. “You sometimes have to just take chances.”

Materials from State House News were used in this story.

Follow Sara Brown on Twitter @Sara_Brown_Trib. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.

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