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Florida bill provides civil immunity to rescuers who enter a vehicle to save vulnerable individuals


Process servers in Miami are on the road day and night and we know how hot it can get here. It can be jarring. Our beloved basketball team is named the Miami Heat. When visitors come to Miami the heat is the first thing they notice when they get off the airplane. Look at this graph of outside temperature vs inside temperature:

At Miami PSPI, we have an office dog that warms our hearts and we all love our little Nina so it concerns us when we see pets locked inside hot cars when we are out on the road. Far too many animals die inside locked hot vehicles with closed windows in the U.S. every year. Although leaving an animal inside a locked hot car with the windows rolled up on a hot day can be considered cruelty to animals and a crime in Florida, a person (not law enforcement or fire rescue) who rescues the animal by breaking the window would not be immune from being sued for civil damages by the vehicle owner. This created a legal conundrum for people who wanted to help.

This past March Florida Governor Rick Scott put this issue to rest when he signed into law HB-131, Unattended Persons and Animals in Motor Vehicles - This bill provides civil immunity to rescuers who enter a vehicle to save vulnerable individuals or animals.

A person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle if the person:

  • Determines the motor vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the vulnerable person or domestic animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance.

  • Has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon the known circumstances, that entry into the motor vehicle is necessary because the vulnerable person or domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm.

  • Ensures that law enforcement is notified or 911 called before entering the motor vehicle or immediately thereafter.

  • Uses no more force to enter the motor vehicle and remove the vulnerable person or domestic animal than is necessary.

  • Remains with the vulnerable person or domestic animal in a safe location, in reasonable proximity to the motor vehicle, until law enforcement or other first responder arrives.

  • APPLICABILITY.—This section does not limit or expand any immunity provided under s. 768.13 for the care or treatment of the vulnerable person or domestic animal.

This law may seem like a no-brainer but amazingly only 22 states currently have laws that prohibit leaving an animal in a confined and dangerous condition and/or provides civil immunity to a rescuer.

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