For Immediate Release: April 10, 2012
Sen. Ron Justice
Liability law will protect public facilities used as shelters
during natural disasters
A bill to protect public buildings used as shelters
during natural disasters from liability claims has been signed
into law. Senate Bill 1316, by Sen. Ron
Justice and Rep. Fred Jordan, modifies the Governmental Tort
Claims Act by adding an exemption from liability for cities, towns,
counties or other entities that open public buildings up to citizens
during emergencies like tornadoes.
“Given the number of natural disasters that Oklahoma experiences
each year, it was important to get this bill signed into law,”
said Justice, R-Chickasha. “Public entities won’t
have to be afraid of lawsuits because they opened their doors
to the public during tornadoes or other natural disasters. This
is a win-win for Oklahoma citizens and public entities that want
to help their communities.”
The legislators noted that SB 1316 does not require public facilities
to serve as natural disaster shelters. The new law will simply
protect those entities that choose to let the public in during
such events from being liable for any injuries individuals might
incur while in the building or from being turned away because
the facility is full.
“This legislation addresses a major public safety issue
for Oklahomans in all 77 counties, and I’m pleased that
it made it through the legislative process so quickly,”
said Jordan, R-Jenks.
The new law will go into effect November 1, 2012.