'Good Samaritan' Bill to be brought to Cabinet today


LEGISLATION TO protect “Good Samaritans” from civil liability is expected to be brought to Cabinet today by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern with a view to enactment by mid-June.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will provide a statutory framework for the civil liability of Good Samaritans and volunteers in order to provide “clarity and reassurance” on the common law position and to encourage volunteerism.

The legislation is based on the Law Reform Commission’s Report on the Civil Liability of Good Samaritans and Volunteers published in May last year.

There will be a statutory definition of Good Samaritans and volunteers as those who act “voluntarily and without expectation of payment or other reward” in providing assistance, advice or care in emergency situations or for the benefit of the community. The Bill sets down a standard of care for Good Samaritans and volunteers, which only imposes liability in circumstances of gross negligence.

The standard of care for volunteer organisations imposes liability in circumstances of ordinary negligence but the Bill specifies that account should be taken of the benefits which have accrued to society because of a voluntary organisation’s work.

The Minister said: “We will have legislation enacted shortly to protect from liability those who, acting with good intentions, go to the assistance of those who are injured or ill as a consequence of an accident or emergency.

“A well-intentioned person who helps someone who is ill or hurt in an emergency need not fear being sued as a result of his or her intervention.

“There is no doubt that fear of civil liability can hamper volunteerism and may prevent individuals and groups from providing assistance and services to others.

“This can potentially discourage volunteerism and may raise insurance premia for volunteer groups. Changes in society, the pace of life, and working patterns mean that volunteerism is under stress.

This reforming law will encourage volunteerism to the benefit of the State and society as a whole.”