Ohio PEs Gain ‘Good Samaritan’ Protections, by Arthur Schwartz, NSPE Deputy Executive Director & General Counsel

Ohio is the latest state to enact a law that provides design professionals with immunity from liability when they volunteer during a natural or man-made disaster.

The legislation (H.B. 17) was cosponsored by state Rep. Louis Blessing III, P.E. It was supported by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers, which provided testimony to committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The law takes effect on May 17. It protects engineers, surveyors, architects, tradespersons, and contractors from liability for damages in a civil suit related to their volunteering professional services during or immediately following a declared emergency. The immunity applies only to services provided within 90 days of a declared emergency. This period can only be extended by the governor.

OSPE says the law will protect volunteers who want to contribute their time and expertise, without compensation, to the health and safety of the public. The law’s protections will allow experienced design professionals to use their skills and judgment in determining the safety of situations and structures prior to the release of safety services and search and rescue teams.

EJCDC believes that professional engineers who voluntarily assist their communities, states, and the nation in times of crisis when requested by the appropriate public official should be protected from liability exposure when performing these duties. In times of natural disaster or other catastrophic events, engineering expertise and skills are needed to provide structural, mechanical, electrical, or other engineering services and may be needed to determine the integrity of structures, buildings, piping, or other engineered systems.