Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Liability law will protect public shelters during natural disasters

A bill to protect public buildings used as shelters during natural disasters from liability claims has been signed into law. Senate Bill 1316, by Sen. Ron Justice and Rep. Fred Jordan, modifies the Governmental Tort Claims Act by adding an exemption from liability for cities, towns, counties or other entities that open public buildings up to citizens during emergencies like tornadoes.
“Given the number of natural disasters that Oklahoma experiences each year, it was important to get this bill signed into law,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “Public entities won’t have to be afraid of lawsuits because they opened their doors to the public during tornadoes or other natural disasters. This is a win-win for Oklahoma citizens and public entities that want to help their communities.”
The legislators noted that SB 1316 does not require public facilities to serve as natural disaster shelters. The new law will simply protect those entities that choose to let the public in during such events from being liable for any injuries individuals might incur while in the building or from being turned away because the facility is full.
“This legislation addresses a major public safety issue for Oklahomans in all 77 counties, and I’m pleased that it made it through the legislative process so quickly,” said Jordan, R-Jenks.
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2012.

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