By: Wendy Rundle, LSPA Executive Director 

Starting on January 1, 2015, LSPs will have liability protection when they provide voluntary services to emergency and public safety agencies during a natural catastrophe or disaster, at the request of or with the approval of an appropriate federal, state or local official. 

This new “Good Samaritan” law was approved by the Massachusetts legislature and signed by the Governor in early August 2014.  The LSPA participated in the coalition effort, spearheaded by Abbie Goodman at the Massachusetts Chapter of ACEC.  Read the law here.

During a State of Emergency, off-duty emergency responders in Massachusetts are protected by a Good Samaritan law.  Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in Massachusetts are also protected by a Good Samaritan law.  However, until this law was approved, LSPs, engineers, and other design professionals and contractors did not have liability protection during emergency situations.

Examples of the need for such services in Massachusetts include responses to the June 2011 tornado in western Massachusetts, and “super-storm Sandy” in October 2012.  Each of these storms caused severe damage to homes and businesses, and released significant quantities of oil from heating oil tanks, as well as other oils and hazardous materials.  While public safety agencies have the capability to provide initial response to prevent the spread of such spills, they are often overwhelmed with more immediate life and property emergencies, and have indicated that they could use professional assistance in assessing and mitigating the impacts of the releases of oil and hazardous material.

This new law will hopefully eliminate concerns and deterrents an LSP may have regarding volunteering his or her pro bono services, and possibly incurring professional liability, when there is no contractual relationship between the LSP and the property owner. 

Like similar laws in Massachusetts and other New England states protecting professionals from negligence claims, this law does not provide immunity for wanton, willful, or intentional misconduct, or gross negligence.