As the previous legislative session wound down, the Senate voted 36-0 in favor of an important piece of legislation that would grant immunity from liability for certain professional services rendered during emergencies.
[Assembly Bill 3694] grants public employee status to licensed architects and professional engineers for certain services rendered during and following emergencies without compensation and at the request of public officials. This “Good Samaritan” legislation provides immunity in accordance with procedures established under the “Tort Claims Act” for the licensed architects and professional engineers who volunteer time, expertise, and services to help rebuild communities that have been damaged by disasters, such as hurricanes, fires, and, tornados.
The bill provides licensed architects and professional engineers with public employee status pursuant to the Tort Claims Act and they shall not be personally liable for any personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, or other loss caused by an act, error, or omission while practicing architecture or engineering following an emergency. In order for the public employee status to apply, the practice of architecture or engineering must be performed:
(1) voluntarily and without compensation;
(2) at the request of a public safety official, acting in an official capacity; and
(3) at the scene of a declared national or State emergency caused by a major earthquake, hurricane, tornado, fire, explosion, collapse, or similar disaster or catastrophic event, during or within 90 days following the emergency, or for any extended period as determined by executive order issued by the Governor under the Governor’s emergency executive powers.
In addition, the public employee status and immunity will not apply, if:
(1) the architect or professional engineer, or a private entity for which the architect or engineer is employed, has an existing contract for services with the public entity, other than the State of New Jersey, whose public safety officer made the request for architectural or engineering services;
(2) the architect or professional engineer, or a private entity for which the architect or engineer is employed, enters into any contract for services that involves the performance of any additional architectural or engineering services related to the voluntary, uncompensated services performed for the public entity whose public safety officer made the request for architectural or engineering services; and
(3) the act or omission by the architect or engineer does not require the public entity to defend and indemnify a public employee pursuant to N.J.S.59:10-1 or N.J.S.59:10-2.
The bill awaits Gov. Christie’s signature. NJCJI supports the bill and encourages the governor to sign it.