Categorized | Opinion

Kids in Hot Cars

By David PeelDavid Peel

The news this time of year always seems to tell of a baby who died in a hot car due to an absent-minded parent, or even worse, allegations of an intentional death.
Regardless of the motive or lack thereof, what does Tennessee law allow you to do if you see a child in a locked car, apparently suffocating due to the heat? If you break the window to rescue the child, won’t the owner of the car sue you?  Maybe. But you may have immunity from the suit.
A new Tennessee law, effective July 1, 2014, addresses just that issue.
TCA 29-34-209 states:
(a) A person whose conduct conforms to the requirements of subsection (b) shall be immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a minor from the vehicle.
(b) Subsection (a) applies if the person:
(1) Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the minor to exit the vehicle;
(2) Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the minor is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle and, based upon the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one;
(3) Has contacted either the local law enforcement agency, the fire department or the 911 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
(4) Places a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with the person’s contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor and that the authorities have been notified;
(5) Remains with the minor in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle until law enforcement, fire or other emergency responder arrives; and
(6) Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the child from the vehicle than is necessary under the circumstances.
(c) Nothing in this section shall affect the person’s civil liability if the person attempts to render aid to the minor in addition to what is authorized by this section.
The standard of “imminent danger” of suffering harm is used by Tennessee to say that this must be an actual emergency before you should break glass, etc.  Be aware, however, that you must show that you complied with every single solitary point of the entire statute to get the immunity protection.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.

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