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Volunteers' protection bill passes after Senate debate

Despite objections that the state is inviting lawsuits by "coating itself in honey," the Utah Senate passed a bill Monday that would grant immunity to independent volunteers.

SB54, which passed 17-10, would establish a $500,000 fund of "last resort" to partially fund settlements that cannot be settled under the volunteer's homeowner or automobile insurance. It strictly limits how much money victims can recover from the state fund.Sponsor Sen. Craig Taylor, R-Kaysville, said he believes hundreds of volunteers will quit donating their time for fear they will be sued. Taylor, an attorney, called the protections afforded under his bill "an incentive for people to do good."

Others questioned the constitutionality of the bill.

In earlier debate, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, challenged Taylor to produce evidence that Utah volunteers are being sued.

Hillyard, also an attorney, observed that the Utah Supreme Court recently upheld the Good Samaritan Act. "That's good law," Hillyard said, adding there was no need to invite lawsuits by establishing a new pot of money for lawyers to seek out nor to establish a new class of volunteers.