While county lifeguards protect the public on local beaches, they have very little protection from lawsuits when someone is injured or drowns in the surf.
A 15-year-old state law giving roughly 350 county lifeguards the same limited liability protection provided to state lifeguards expired June 30 after Gov. David Ige vetoed a bill extending their protections. Ige was concerned the bill went too far, putting the state on the hook even if the lifeguards were negligent in their duties.
The governor said at the time he was “confident” an agreement between the state and counties would be reached, adding that “we’ll be back next year.” So far, that’s not happened.
Lifeguard protection bills are indeed back in the mix as the state Legislature advances to a key Feb. 16 deadline to have bills in their final committee. The new bills address Ige’s concerns by adding the exception of “gross negligence or wanton act or omission” of the lifeguard.