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Proposed Legislation Would Make 'Reckless' People Pay for Their Own Rescuing


"...it will make sure taxpayers are not on the hook for providing emergency response for somebody who's acting stupidly."

Two bills proposed by Michigan state legislators would allow cities to request payment of people who have made "reckless" choices that put them in dangerous situations necessitating their rescue by professional teams.

MLive reported that the proposed legislation would apply during states of emergency and to people, who by their own "grossly negligent" choices, put themselves in danger. For a person to be charged, it would have to be "conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether injury results."

"Hopefully a local unit of government will never have to use this option," one of the bills sponsors, state representative Brandon Dillon, said, according to MLive. "But if they do, it will make sure taxpayers are not on the hook for providing emergency response for somebody who's acting stupidly."

The bills (House Bill 4856 and House Bill 4857) would allow municipalities in certain situations to make up for the cost of paying rescue teams and for any medical supplies or services used.

Here's the reaction of some MLive readers to the proposal:

ezkl2230: "Why should the police and fire departments not charge them for their rescue? Rip current warnings are issued on the big lake, yet people insist on swimming in the effected areas. In the spring, advisories or warnings are issued about unsafe ice, yet people insist on walking out onto the ice anyway. Flood warnings are issued along the Grand River, yet people insist on staying in their homes and end up requiring rescue."

Dee Butler Bellini: If a state of emergency is declared, then most rescue agencies are on high alert, rescuing people that legitimately need rescuing. They do not have the time to rescue people who do stupid and reckless things, like kayaking down a dangerously swollen river or going out onto the ice when there has been numerous days of temperatures above freezing, yes, they should be charged.

muckraker70: Call me crazy, but don't we all pay taxes so that we have people to help save us. Next they will charge you for showing up at a break-in because you accidentally left the door unlocked.

Todd VanLoon: If the people who are charged with rescuing others deem a situation is unsafe and warns people not to do it (drawing the line), then yes those that engage in reckless behavior should do so at their own risk. If this behavior requires them to be rescued, then they should pay to be rescued. If this behavior injures someone trying to rescue them, then they should be liable for those injuries also.

During the recent, record-setting flood in the Grand Rapids area, which resulted in a state of emergency, Dillon acknowledged that many people who needed rescue were not acting reckless and these bills would not become a financial burden for those who "generally [need] assistance, even if they make an error in judgment."

WOOD-TV though noted a few examples during April's flood in west Michigan where rescue crews spent resources helping those who went out in boats on swollen water ways.

Ruth Tucker and her husband, John Worst, kayak along a flooded Abrigador Trail NE in Comstock Park, Thursday, April 18, 2013. The two live on the road and plan to wait out the flood. "We've been through nine of these," said Tucker. "People ask why we would live here, all we can do is plead insanity," she joked. (Photo: AP/The Grand Rapids Press, Cory Morse)

Lowell Police Chief Barry Getzen WOOD-TV he supported the legislation as sending out 10 firefighters and two fire rescue teams to help a kayaker cost around $1,000.



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