Oklahomans will not face the risk of being sued by someone they let in their home or business during severe weather who subsequently gets hurt, based on a measure signed into law Friday.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2419, which eliminates civil liability for any businesses or people providing access to a safe place during severe weather as long as they are acting in good faith.
The measure takes effect immediately.
“We want to encourage neighbors to help neighbors, especially during severe weather, and that's what this law is all about,” Fallin said.
“No one should have the fear of a lawsuit hanging over their head simply for opening their home or business to someone in need of shelter during a storm or tornado. This law protects citizens acting in good faith, and ultimately it may help us to save lives.”
Fallin signed the measure a little more than two weeks after the House of Representatives failed to override a similar measure that she vetoed.
The Senate last month revised HB 2419 and voted 42-0 to pass it the day after the veto override of HB 2296 failed in the House. The House voted 89-2 Tuesday to pass HB 2419.
HB 2296 would have given liability protection to mobile home park operators who allowed residents to take shelter in their office during severe weather.
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, said he filed HB 2296 after an elderly constituent told him she had sought shelter in her mobile home park's office during a tornado but was turned away because of liability concerns.
Fallin said she vetoed HB 2296 because by lifting liability for mobile home park owners, the bill treated one group of business owners differently from all other business owners.
Also, it did not encourage businesses to provide a safe environment, she said.
“This process has been an exercise in cooperation between the governor's office and the Legislature that has given us a remarkably better bill than the one sent to my desk last month,” Fallin said.
“I applaud our legislators for their dedication to providing a legal environment that is conducive to increased safety during inclement weather.”
Fallin's veto occurred two days before a tornado struck Woodward on April 15 and killed six people, including mobile home park tenants. Had the governor signed the bill, it would not have been a factor because it would not have taken effect until Nov. 1.
HB 2419 was changed so the measure would take effect immediately upon her signature.
“This is especially significant as it will be in effect before this year's tornado season ends,” Fallin said.