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S.C. lacks liability statutes for businesses in disaster and health emergencies

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  • S.C. lacks liability statutes for businesses in disaster and health emergencies


    S.C. lacks liability statutes for businesses in disaster and health emergencies

    Staff Report
    Published Dec. 22, 2008

    South Carolina ranks high in a recently released national study on disaster preparedness and public health emergencies, but the one area in which it falls short is laws that limit businesses? liability in crisis times.

    The sixth annual ?Ready or Not: Protecting the Public?s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism? report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America?s Health drew a matrix of 10 points and used them to rank states. South Carolina met 9 of the 10 indicators this year.

    Click here for a complete breakdown for South Carolina.

    The factors include having an adequate plan to distribute emergency vaccines and medical supplies; having a state public health laboratory that can meet expectations of a pandemic flu outbreak; and maintaining or increasing the level of funding for public health services.

    But the state was one of 26 that don?t have laws that reduce or limit the liability of organizations that help out in times of a disaster or public health emergency.

    ?South Carolina doesn?t have a statute in place that provides an adequate level of liability protection to nonprofits and businesses,? said Rich Hamburg, government relations director for the Trust for Public Health.

    Although the state does have good Samaritan laws that protect individuals in an emergency, it doesn?t have liability laws for businesses and nonprofits, Hamburg said.

    ?It?s a concern because we don?t want a business to hesitate to provide its services in an emergency because of the threat of liability,? he said. ?It?s a barrier we want to remove.?

    According to the report, more than half the states and the District of Columbia scored seven or fewer out of the 10 indicators. Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin scored 10 out of 10; Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Montana and Nebraska tied for the lowest score, with five out of 10.

    Some 2008 health emergencies include a Salmonella outbreak in jalapeno and Serrano peppers that sickened 1,442 people in 43 states, the largest beef recall in history in February, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, flooding in the Midwest, wildfires in California in June and November, and a ricin scare in Las Vegas.