Limited liability proposed for drug overdoses

Those experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose would have limited legal liability under a bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 10.

LB980, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, would grant limited legal liability to someone experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose if they request emergency medical assistance as soon as the emergency is evident.

Morfeld said drug overdose deaths in Nebraska have quadrupled since 1999, according to a 2014 state Department of Health and Human Services report.

“[LB980] ensures we’re putting the lives of Nebraskans first while still ensuring accountability to the law,” he said. “It will make sure people can seek critical medical attention when it’s needed.”

A witness to a drug overdose would qualify for limited liability under LB980 if they are the first person to request emergency medical assistance, remain on the scene until assistance arrives and cooperate with the medical assistance and law enforcement officials.

Tom Strigenz, representing the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorney Association, supported the bill.

“Our clients make bad decisions. If we can help them make good decisions and possibly save a life, then we support that,” he said.

Erin Cooper, representing the University of Nebraska, testified in a neutral capacity. She said the university supported a similar bill dealing with underage drinking in 2015.

“We strongly support any measure that could save lives,” she said. “However, we do urge caution in implementing [LB980] and taking into consideration the difference between misdemeanor conduct and felonious conduct.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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