Hoeven, Kirk Introduce Bill to Expand Good Samaritan Protections to Volunteer Organizations

Measure Aims to Encourage Volunteerism

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Mark Kirk (Ill.) today announced they have introduced the Volunteer Protection Act of 2015. The measure will provide the same liability protections to volunteer groups and organizations as protections already provided to individuals under the Good Samaritan law.

In 1997, Congress passed the Volunteer Protection Act, legislation designed to encourage people to continue volunteering by limiting or eliminating an individual’s risk of liability when acting for a nonprofit organizations or government entity. The parent organization, however, could still be held liable for the well-intentioned actions of its volunteers.

The legislation extends the same protections that cover individuals to the non-profit organizations and government entities they work for.

“At one time, individuals who volunteered for nonprofit organizations or government agencies ran the risk of being held liable for their actions if they unintentionally injured someone while attempting to render help,” Hoeven said. “Even with the best of intentions, they could be deemed negligent and face civil liability for their actions. Congress passed a bill to protect those individuals, and now we are expanding those protections to charitable groups and other service entities who work to help people in need.”

            Specifically, the legislation amends the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 to:

  • Prevent the application of vicarious liability rules to non-profit organizations who conduct their activities using primarily volunteers and who did not expressly authorize an alleged harm-producing activity in anticipation of raising charitable funds.
  • Extend governmental immunities to non-profit organizations for actions taken at the request of, or on the authority of, a government entity that would be immune if it undertook the actions itself.