Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/03/1993 03:00 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 79: DAMAGE TO PROPERTY BY MINORS Number 390 CHAIR TOOHEY brought HB 79 to the table. Number 393 REP. BUNDE spoke as sponsor of HB 79. He said the bill was a minor adjustment of a statute created in 1967 which limited to $2,000 the amount of damage recovery possible from parents of a minor who wilfully destroyed another's property. He noted that inflation has risen since 1967, and likewise the cost of property damage, and asked that the damage limit be lifted to $50,000, the same limit allowed in district court. Number 412 REP. NICHOLIA said HB 79 could place a burden on residents of her district who might not be able to pay up to $50,000 to compensate for damage done by their children, whom they may have difficulty controlling. Number 420 REP. BUNDE noted that property damage from juveniles was likewise a burden on the victims. He said the intent of the bill was, in part, to encourage parents to be more responsible for their children's activities by costing them money if they were not. Number 430 REP. B. DAVIS asked how much damages had been recovered under the statute with the $2,000 limit. REP. OLBERG noted that legal expenses and other difficulties make it unlikely most people would go to court to recover $2,000 in property damages. Number 452 REP. B. DAVIS asked who would enforce this law and how much was collected under the existing statute. REP. BUNDE explained that HB 79 does not create a criminal fine; rather, it raises the limit on award amounts in civil suits to make it more likely that a victim could recover nearer the real value of damages done by a minor. Number 465 REP. B. DAVIS asked for someone other than the bill's sponsor, preferably someone from a state department, to answer her question. Number 470 REP. OLBERG said that her question was not answerable because a government entity would only be involved if it were the plaintiff in a civil action. He said information on such cases was unlikely to be readily available. Number 480 REP. B. DAVIS said that it was impossible to force individuals to pay damages if they did not have the money, and asked whether the bill would force parents to pay the damages up to $50,000 if they did not have the means. REP. BUNDE stated that yes, under HB 79 a court could enter a $50,000 judgement against parents of a minor who caused that amount of damage. As such, he said, it would encourage parental knowledge of children's activities and whereabouts. CHAIR TOOHEY called a brief at-ease at 3:39 p.m., and called the meeting back to order at 3:40 p.m. Number 515 REP. G. DAVIS asked whether the current statute was stifling the courts in ordering restitution, and he expressed a desire to hear legal opinions or expert testimony on the question. He also mentioned a national trend toward more creative court restitution orders and predicted a bill would sometime come before the legislature to address the issue on a larger scale. Number 547 JAY FRANK, A LOBBYIST REPRESENTING THE STATE FARM AND ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANIES, testified on HB 79. He said the bill, by expanding the level of financial exposure by 2000 percent, significantly expands the concept of strict liability under the tort system under which parents can sometimes be held responsible for their childrens' actions. MR. FRANK said the insurance industry's concern was that such damages might be covered by homeowners' insurance policies, thus both mitigating the impact on the responsible parents and raising the cost of such insurance for other policyholders. He said he had spoken with Rep. Bunde, who had expressed agreement with the industry on the possibility of excluding such damage awards from coverage. Number 585 REP. OLBERG repeated that HB 79's intent is to allow recovery of damages done by a minor, regardless of whether the minor's parents had insurance or not. He expressed displeasure at the idea of an amendment and asked to see any such amendment. CHAIR TOOHEY closed testimony on HB 79 and announced that the bill would be held and would be brought up again for further consideration, most likely at the next meeting of the committee. There being no further business before the committee, Chair Toohey ADJOURNED the meeting at 3:49 p.m.