Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/02/2004 03:50 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
            CSHB 423(JUD)am-TAXICAB DRIVER LIABILITY                                                                        
                                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE TOM  ANDERSON, sponsor of  HB 423, said  this bill                                                               
applies to  taxicab operators who transport  motor vehicles owned                                                               
by  intoxicated  individuals to  their  homes  or other  directed                                                               
residential locations.  This bill will lighten  the insurance law                                                               
a  bit  by not  making  the  taxicab driver's  insurance  company                                                               
liable for any damages that  may occur, unless the taxicab driver                                                               
was grossly negligent  or reckless. The insurance  company of the                                                               
intoxicated person would  be liable for any  damage. He indicated                                                               
that  in 2002,  87  traffic  deaths occurred,  of  which 35  were                                                               
alcohol related. In order to  create a successful program, liquor                                                               
establishments  have  committed  to implementing  some  policies,                                                               
such  as installing  direct phone  lines to  cab companies.  They                                                               
would  agree,  in partnership  with  taxicab  companies, to  make                                                               
public  service announcements  to help  influence patrons  to use                                                               
the  program. They  have  also agreed  to pay  a  portion of  the                                                               
agreed upon cab fare costs and  will track the program's usage to                                                               
determine  its  effectiveness.  The   service  will  be  free  to                                                               
consumers and  cab companies will  receive $40 per trip  from bar                                                               
owners. MADD supports this legislation;  it passed the House with                                                               
unanimous  support.  He  noted  this bill  was  introduced  in  a                                                               
previous legislature but  died in the Senate on the  last day due                                                               
to lack of time.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN asked  if a very alcohol-impaired  person could give                                                               
legal consent to another to drive his car.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  said the principle  of the needs  of the                                                               
many outweighs  the needs of  the few  would apply. The  needs of                                                               
the many  in this case  would be those  who are cognizant  of the                                                               
ramifications of  driving while impaired.  If the person  is very                                                               
drunk, the  bar can sanction  that person,  who should not  be in                                                               
the  bar. In  a worst-case  scenario,  the staff  would help  the                                                               
person into a taxi and another  would drive the car home. If that                                                               
person decided to sue,  he said he would love to  see how a judge                                                               
and jury  would react. He  referred to lines  21-23 of page  2 of                                                               
the bill and thought that language might be applicable. He read:                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     The  motor vehicle  owner is  considered to  have given                                                                    
     consent to  another person to drive  the person's motor                                                                    
     vehicle  if   the  other  person  is   involved  in  an                                                                    
     accident.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
He said in  a worst-case scenario, a person who  was really drunk                                                               
and did not want a cab driver to  drive his car home would be out                                                               
of luck and probably could not testify in opposition to that.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN expressed  concern that  the legislature  is making                                                               
that decision for the person.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  said nothing in  the bill  says the person  has to                                                               
originate at a licensed establishment.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON said that  is incorrect; the vehicle must                                                               
be  driven home  from a  licensed establishment.  The partnership                                                               
with taxicab  companies would not  work otherwise as  the taxicab                                                               
companies would go broke.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS closed  public testimony, as no one  else wished to                                                               
testify.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   OGAN  moved   CSHB  423(JUD)am   from  committee   with                                                               
individual recommendations and its attached fiscal notes.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
The motion carried with Senators  Therriault, Ogan and Seekins in                                                               
favor.                                                                                                                          

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