The full Assembly on Monday unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera and Daniel Benson that would provide civil immunity to someone who forcibly enters a motor vehicle to remove unattended and unsupervised children who might be at risk.
“We have all heard the stories of children being left in a locked car in hot or freezing temperatures and the subsequent tragedies,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “If a child is in immediate danger and the authorities have been notified, a good Samaritan should not have to be concerned with the cost of damages to the vehicle if they are trying to save a child’s life.”
The bill (A-4079) stipulates that a person would not be held liable for any damages arising out of and in the course of forcibly entering a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a child left unattended and unsupervised in the vehicle.
“There are many instances when a parent may run into a store, leaving their child unattended, for what they think will just be a few seconds and turns out to be more than a few minutes,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “But we know that a situation can change in a heartbeat. The intent of the bill is to save children who are left unattended in a car and are clearly under distress.”
The immunity granted pursuant to the bill would not apply to any person causing damage to a motor vehicle as a result of recklessness or willful misconduct.
“This bill would eliminate any disincentive for a passerby to intervene if they have the ability to prevent a horrific tragedy from occurring,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “If done properly and responsibly, without endangering the child and with limited damage to vehicle, more lives can be saved.”
Specifically, a person could not be liable for any damages resulting from forcibly entering a motor vehicle and removing an unattended and unsupervised child from the vehicle if the person:
1) determines the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable method to remove the child from the vehicle;
2) has a reasonable good faith belief that the forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the child is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury if not immediately removed from the vehicle;
3) contacts the local law enforcement agency or the fire department, emergency medical services personnel, or 9-1-1 emergency telephone service for assistance prior to entering and removing the child from the vehicle;
4) places written notification on the motor vehicle’s windshield with the person’s contact information, reason why entry into the vehicle was made, the location of the child and that the local authorities have been notified;
5) remains with the child in a safe location reasonably close to the vehicle until local law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical personnel arrives;
6) uses no more force than is necessary to enter and remove the child from the vehicle; and
7) attempts to render aid to the child in addition to the assistance authorized in the bill.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.