(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joe Danielsen, Vince Mazzeo, Joe Lagana and Eliana Pintor Marin to hold first responders harmless for damages that may occur from forcible entries during an emergency.
“Ultimately, this bill is designed to ensure that no one in need of emergency assistance goes without care because of potential liability concerns in the event that they’re unable to either physically or verbally grant first responders entry into their property,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset).
The bill (A-594) would provide immunity from civil liability to compensated and volunteer public and private first responders – including emergency medical services personnel, law enforcement officers, and firefighters – for any damages that may result from a forcible entry into a home, business, or other structure where an emergency is reported.
“If someone’s life is on the line and a first responder has to break down a door to get in, it’s counterintuitive to subject them to liability when their actions could mean the difference between life and death,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic).
This immunity would only apply when the first responder’s decision is based upon a good faith belief that forced entry is necessary to provide emergency medical care or to prevent imminent bodily harm and when no occupant of the property responds to the first responder’s requests for entry within a reasonable period of time.
“There are many emergency situations where a person might be in their house or car and unresponsive. If it were me or my family, I would want first responders to do whatever is necessary to save lives without fear of liability for their heroics,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic).
“First responders are trained with one goal in mind – saving lives,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “If they believe a forced entry is the only way to save a life, they’re going to move heaven and earth to do it. We should have their backs and protect them from liability.”
The measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.