Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124
03/28/2016 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 308-CHILD SAFETY SEAT INSTALLATION LIABILITY 3:17:01 PM CHAIR OLSON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 308, "An Act relating to the limitation of liability for the inspection, installation, or adjustment of a child safety seat or in providing education regarding the installation or adjustment of a child safety seat." 3:17:27 PM REPRESENTATIVE CHARISSE MILLETT, Alaska State Legislature, speaking as the sponsor of HB 308, informed the committee the bill limits the liability of those who volunteer to properly install child safety car seats for parents. She relayed that car seats for infants and toddlers have been shown to save lives and reduce injuries in the case of an accident. At this time, those who inspect child safety seats as part of their job at a fire station or a hospital, have limited liability; in a similar manner, HB 308 would limit the liability for child passenger safety technicians who volunteer to do so at community gatherings, for example, in rural Alaska. Representative Millet said technicians complete hours of training and keep kids safe and their parents comfortable by correctly installing car seats. She concluded that the bill advocates for safety seat use and protects technicians from the fear of being sued. 3:21:13 PM LINDSEY WHITT, Staff to Representative Millett, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HB 308, paraphrased from the following sectional analysis [original punctuation provided]: Section 1: Provides that the following are not civilly liable in the case of an act or omission that occurs in the inspection, installation, or adjustment of a child safety seat or in providing education regarding the installation or adjustment of a child safety seat: - A certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) - A person who arranges or offers the services of a CPST for the community - A person who owns property where a CPST is operating A CPST must offer their services for free or for the amount of their actual costs, in good faith, and within the scope of their training. They may also not be sponsored by a child passenger safety device manufacturer or retailer. Section 2: Applicability clause. CHAIR OLSON asked whether the bill applies to firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who have received training. REPRESENTATIVE MILLET said the aforementioned firefighters and EMTs would be covered by their employers; however, the bill would cover them if they volunteered outside of the firehouse or police station. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked for clarification. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT further explained that liability is covered through the municipality for which they work; the bill applies when they are volunteering, and not representing a municipality or a private employer. In further response to Representative LeDoux, she said insurance is through an employer. The bill applies, for example, when a state employee gets a certificate to install safety seats on a voluntary basis, and completes the training and volunteers to install a car seat, his/her liability would be limited if the car seat or the installation of the car seat failed. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX suggested volunteers would be covered by their homeowners insurance. She questioned whether insurance companies have requested the bill. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT said HB 308 was requested by off-duty police officers and firefighters who are certified technicians and would like to offer installation service, but without civil liability. In further response to Representative LeDoux, she pointed out that not all people own homes. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES asked whether all new parents and baby leave the hospital with a car seat installed. 3:26:23 PM MS. WHITT recommended that expectant parents contact someone locally to take a class and learn how to install the baby safely; she said help and instructions can be found at firehouses and police stations. There are over 200 technicians throughout the state and anyone could call "one of the numbers provided." REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT said she would verify with hospitals across the state that they are aware of the service. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX directed attention to the bill on page 1, beginning on line 13, and continuing to page 2, line 10, which read: (1) the person (A) has successfully completed the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training program and maintains a current child passenger safety technician or technician instructor certification issued under that program; (B) offers or arranges a nonprofit child safety seat educational program, checkup event, or checking station program for the public with instruction by certified child passenger safety technicians or technician instructors; or (C) owns property where a nonprofit child safety seat educational program, checkup event, or checking station program for the public occurs with instruction by certified child passenger safety technicians or technician instructors; REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX inquired as to aforementioned subparagraph (C) and the relevance of owning property where the educational program occurs. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT deferred the question to Legislative Legal Services, Legislative Affairs Agency, and offered that the bill applies to those who do not work at a police station, hospital, or firehouse, but are interested in child car seat safety. 3:30:16 PM CHAIR OLSON opened public testimony on HB 308. 3:30:33 PM JANE FELLMAN, registered nurse, Central Peninsula Hospital, and coordinator, Kenai Peninsula Safe Kids Coalition, said she has been a child passenger safety technician (CPST) since 1998, and an instructor since 2000. The Kenai Peninsula Safe Kids Coalition has spent many years assisting parents properly place their children in car seats. The requirements are continuously changing because motor vehicle safety is improving, and CPSTs are a resource for parents, inspecting seats and providing proper installation. They also educate parents about how to prevent and correct the misuse of car seats. Ms. Fellman said in Alaska, the misuse of car seats is 85 percent, so CPSTs are needed. In order to keep technicians, and have more who are not employed by an agency, the bill is needed to provide a level of protection for them. She encouraged the committee to support the bill. 3:33:13 PM DON ETHERIDGE, Spokesperson, AFL-CIO, said his organization in supports the bill because many of its members provide car seat installation training on a voluntary basis. He advised that the local hospital sends expectant parents to the police department for a car seat and instruction. Mr. Etheridge gave a personal story of the improper use of a car seat, and restated his support of the proposed legislation. 3:34:31 PM CLINTON POWELL, Senior Captain, Anchorage Fire Department, expressed support for the bill. The Anchorage Fire Department has an inspection program and checks almost 400 seats every year. In addition, the department conducts award-winning outreach throughout the state, and HB 308 provides a statewide benefit to educators. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES asked about coordination with new parents at Providence Alaska Medical Center. 3:36:26 PM SARA PENISTEN, registered nurse, Providence Alaska Medical Center (Providence), and state coordinator, Safe Kids Alaska Coalition, said she has been a child passenger safety technician since 1999, and an instructor since 2006. Regarding hospital policy and protocol at Providence, she advised that every newborn leaving Providence has its car seat checked for recall status, appropriate fit, and expiration date. If requested, certified CPSTs on the hospital staff will assist parents. Ms. Penisten noted that some children have unique transportation needs and the hospital provides special training. However, the aforementioned policies and procedures are not required of hospitals, and each hospital in the state differs in the matter of car seats for pediatric patients and newborns. Further, not every hospital has certified technicians; in fact, some hospitals are reluctant to check car seats because of the liability involved. She said HB 308 would take the liability issue away due to the certification of the technicians, which requires a three-day nationally standardized course involving evaluations, written examinations, and participation in a public check-up event. In response to Representative LeDoux, she directed attention to [Section 1, subparagraph (B)], and explained that this addresses those who arrange public check-up events, not necessarily the technicians, and [Section 1, subparagraph (C)] addresses the potential liability of a property owner where the event takes place, such as a child care center or public school. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES questioned whether for-profit hospitals are liable. MS. PENISTEN advised that it is not the nonprofit status of the property owner - but the status of the event - that is valid. For example, the nonprofit child safety seat education program check-up event does not charge a fee for attendance. In further response to Representative Hughes, Ms. Penisten said if an employee is acting within the scope of his/her employment, the employer's insurance provides primary coverage; HB 308 applies when certified technicians are not working for an employer, such as a firefighter who volunteers for a public car seat safety event during his/her off-duty hours. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES returned attention to the policy at Providence and asked whether car seats are brought in to the hospital to be checked, or whether hospital personnel go to the vehicle. MS. PENISTEN stated that at Providence the protocol and policy are that a car seat for a newborn is brought in to the hospital. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES asked whether there are any past or pending lawsuits against technicians in the state related to the installation of car seats. MS. WHITT said no. In further response to Representative Hughes, she said she is aware of one case outside of Alaska. The issue in Alaska is the recruiting of and the retention of technicians. 3:45:48 PM ANTHONY GREEN, Director of Public Policy, Safe Kids Worldwide, stated that he is aware of one incident in which a parent had an issue related to a car seat inspection. His organization is responsible for the training of child passenger safety technicians, and Mr. Green expressed his strong support for HB 308 and providing a level of comfort to volunteers. He observed that 94 percent of cars in the U.S. that have been inspected have had car seats installed, and 46 percent of those are incorrectly used. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES inquired as to the cause of the higher incorrect installation percentage in Alaska. MS. WHITT said in 2014, the percentage of incorrectly installed car seats in Alaska was 85 percent; she added that she did not know the cause. 3:48:47 PM CORLIS TAYLOR, Director, Education Department, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, stated she is a child passenger safety technician and an instructor. For more than 20 years she has been involved in this issue, and she spoke in favor of HB 308. As an instructor she has trained many technicians in Fairbanks, and she restated that 85 percent of the seats installed by those who attend events are incorrectly installed. Ms. Taylor observed there is a need to educate parents on how to transport children safely. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has a program to work with families of children with disabilities and special needs. She restated her support for the bill. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES restated her question. MS. TAYLOR recalled that in the beginning of the program, the nationwide percentage for incorrect installation was 85 percent to 95 percent; she suggested that the percentage has declined in the Lower 48 because there are more technicians and advertising, which differs in Alaska. 3:52:34 PM CHAIR OLSON after ascertaining no one further wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 308. 3:52:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES moved to report HB 308 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 308 was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.