Legislature(2015 - 2016)GRUENBERG 120
04/06/2016 01:00 PM JUDICIARY
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HB 308-CHILD SAFETY SEAT INSTALLATION LIABILITY 1:19:04 PM CHAIR LEDOX announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 308, "An Act relating to the limitation of liability for the inspection, installation, or adjustment of a child safety seat or in providing education regarding the installation or adjustment of a child safety seat." 1:19:33 PM REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT said that HB 308 will help save lives, make communities safer for Alaskans, and will allow technicians for child passenger safety latitude to install car seats and teach people how to install car seats without liability. She offered that these technicians are fully trained and certified through a process. Oftentimes, she noted, people go to a fire station or a hospital to have their car seat installed. This bill is a mechanism for child safety technicians to go into communities that may or may not have fire stations, and the opportunity to hold free events to teach parents, especially new parents, how to install their car seats correctly. The bill avoids any liability when certified technicians volunteer to install and educate people and, she noted, the bill has no opposition. She pointed out that it is considerably desirable in rural communities that do not currently have car seat safety technicians because it gives the technicians the opportunity to teach the smaller communities. 1:21:32 PM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER noted that his conceptual amendment is now before the committee and stated that he feels confident with the legislative intent. He said, "Our departed friend Max, I'm standing in for him today making sure that we aren't doing something that is unintended." He noted that as he read the bill he thought it was a limitation of liability, except as provided in subsection (b), which read: (b) This section does not apply to a civil action (1) for damages resulting from gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct; or (2) where the inspection, installation, or adjustment of a child safety seat, is performed in conjunction with the for-profit sale of a child safety seat. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER suggested there was the possibility of liability to parents. He stated he wants a safeguard in the bill that the legislature does not, in any manner, increase the liability of a parent taking care of their child. Mistakes will be made, he opined, and their standards for adjustment may be different for others, and stressed he wants an exemption in there for parents. In the event there is not an answer he will propose the conceptual amendment later, he said. 1:22:50 PM REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT noted that it is a question for Legislative Legal and Research Services because it is not something that came up during their research on the bill. She agreed there could be a situation wherein parents are co- parenting and one parent has custody and the other parent has joint custody. 1:23:14 PM CHAIR LEDOUX asked Representative Keller whether he was trying to exempt parents from legal liability. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER answered yes. CHAIR LEDOUX explained that in reality, the conceptual amendment exempts insurance companies from having to provide coverage. Due to the manner in which homeowner's insurance policies work, if there is a serious accident [with the child] the non- negligent parent can sue the other parent on behalf of the child and there can be liability against the other parent. Although, she pointed out, the lawsuit wouldn't even be brought unless there was insurance coverage. Therefore, she explained, this amendment would basically be a boon to the insurance companies and not the injured child, and not to the parent who would not want to be exempted because they would want their child to actually have the coverage. 1:24:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment 1, as follows: Page 2, Line 10 DELETE [and] After "instructiors [sic]: INSERT or (D) is a parent, legal or authorized guardian; and CHAIR LEDOUX objected for purposes of discussion. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER, in response to Chair LeDoux's explanation, said he started reading the bill and thought that this would exempt the liability of people [who have] successfully completed a certification course regarding the use of car seats. He then posed the question, what if someone tries to use this section of law to hold someone liable and there are many different options. He said he understands that Chair LeDoux is saying that one of the options here is that Conceptual Amendment 1 builds a boon for insurance companies and that possibly there is a more elegant way to fix the problem. Although, he stressed the committee needs to do something to be certain the bill does not increase regulation and liability on parents at some level. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT reiterated that she should speak with Legislative Legal and Research Services because her understanding is that this only applies to people who have been trained and have received a certificate, parents wouldn't need to be covered under this bill unless they are a certified car seat inspector. She then referred to Chair LeDoux's point and said she is more concerned about not having them under the homeowner's insurance. 1:27:18 PM MARIANNA CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Torts and Workers' Compensation Section, Department of Law, said she agrees this is a better question for Legislative Legal and Research Services because they are the people to discuss how the bill might be interpreted. Representative Keller is correct that parents are not referenced, but she opined that parents are not envisioned as implicated in the operation of the bill. She related that she is hesitate to offer more because she is unsure what the drafter was thinking when drafting the bill. 1:28:53 PM The committee took an at-ease from 1:28 to 1:33:42. 1:33:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER withdrew Conceptual Amendment 1. CHAIR LEDOUX opened public testimony. 1:34:48 PM SARA PENISTEN, Registered Nurse, Providence Alaska Medical Center, advised she is the coordinator of the Kids Alaska State Coalition, is a Child Safety Instructor, and has been involved in child passenger safety since 1998. She said she strongly urges the committee's support in that currently Alaska has 194 certified technicians who hold a two-year certification in child passenger safety. That certification is renewable upon specific requirements set forth by the National Child Passenger Safety Board, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and the Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Certification program which is administered by Safe Kids Worldwide. She advised that the Kids Alaska State Coalition collects data annually through an extremely structured program regarding car seat misuse on car seats inspected in Alaska and offered that a lawsuit has never been brought forth naming a child passenger safety technician. However, she related they are hopeful the legislature will pass this legislation as a layer of protection, and especially encourage people in rural areas to seek out certification for people that may not be sponsored by an agency that is actively involved in the care of children or in their transportation needs. She advised that several people have contacted her with interest over the years whose agencies may not have that same interest and due to their fear of liability choose not to become certified and; therefore, cannot serve their community as a transportation resource for children. 1:37:26 PM ANTHONY GREEN, Director of Public Policy, Safe Kids Worldwide, advised that most of the people acting as child passenger safety technicians are volunteers who go through a rigorous course to become child passenger safety technicians. He pointed out that it will help the Alaska program if candidates, sponsoring organizations, or properties where events may take place, can be advised they are immune from civil liability. Not only have there not been any lawsuits brought in Alaska, he is unaware of any being brought in the entire United States. Although, he advised there was an incident dealt with some years ago that did not resort to litigation. He offered his appreciation for the committee's consideration of this bill. 1:39:17 PM DAVID WALLACE, Engineer Paramedic, Anchorage Fire Department, advised he is an Engineer Paramedic with the Anchorage Fire Department in addition to being a child passenger safety technician instructor. He stated that while working in communities around Anchorage, Southeast, and Kodiak Island, a concern often expressed is around the level of liability that technicians and the agency could be involved in. This legislation would help ease the concerns of both the individuals and agencies so they will become a stronger partner in providing safe transportation for children, he opined. 1:40:42 PM DON ETHRIDGE, Alaska State AFL-CIO, said they support this bill and explained that many members of the Alaska State AFL-CIO are fire fighters, police department employees, and many hospital nurses who volunteer their own time to offer trainings. He said this bill is viewed as an additional step in protecting the volunteers while caring for the public. CHAIR LEDOUX, after ascertaining that no one further wished to testify, closed public testimony. 1:41:51 PM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to report HB 308, Version 29- LS1323\A out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 308 passed out of the House Judiciary Standing Committee.