Proposed Tennessee bill would protect motorists who accidentally run over road blocking protesters

Protesters purposefully blocking active roads should certainly be arrested, but we can all agree that even the most obnoxious ones shouldn’t be run over.

But if it happens accidentally, should the driver face civil liability for an accident that happened where the car was supposed to be and the “pedestrian” wasn’t?

If Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill gets his newly introduced bill passed, a motorist who accidentally runs over a street blocking protester will be protected from being sued for injuries incurred.

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Accidental is the key. According to the bill introduced on Wednesday, the driver must be exercising “due care” to be eligible for civil immunity.

Hill’s House Bill 668, which has been co-sponsored in the Tennessee Senate by State Senator Bill Ketron, says the following:

(a) A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way is immune from civil liability for such injury.

(b) A person shall not be immune from civil liability if the actions leading to the injury were willful or wanton.

 

While the bill doesn’t specifically define “due care,” Representative Hill told BizPac Review, “We are not endorsing anyone running over a person with a car, whether it is protesters or anyone else. If someone intentionally harms a person, they are going to be charged with a crime, period. There is a clear difference, however, between peacefully protesting and lawless rioters in the middle of a public roadway who jeopardize the safety of our families. This is a public safety bill that is meant to protect everyone’s right to peacefully protest and I look forward to seeing this commonsense legislation passed into law.”

housebill

screenshot of the bill from the TN General Assembly website

Tennessee isn’t the first state to consider such legislation. As leftist loons increasingly use roadway blocking as a tactic against ordinary Americans, legislatures in North Dakota, Indiana, Minnesota, and Iowa have sought to address the issue by in some cases increasing penalties for blocking roads and in others moving to protect unwitting motorists from being caught up in civil suits for an accident they should never have become involved in.

Rep. Keith Kempenich, the lawmaker who introduced the North Dakota bill, told CNN that “the bill got introduced for people to be able to drive down the roads without fear of running into somebody and having to be liable for them.”

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Rep. Hill isn’t sure where Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam stands on the concept, but regardless he feels like he and Sen. Ketron have a “decent” shot at getting the bill through, especially with overwhelming Republican majorities in the state. Whether or not it’s able to withstand the inevitable leftist court challenges bound to come its way, however, is another matter entirely.

While protesting is certainly a first amendment right, purposefully disrupting the lives of others is not. It is and should be illegal to purposefully run over anyone, but at the same time if laws like this are passed and upheld in the courts those who seek to disrupt by blocking roads might exercise a degree of caution before they venture where the law doesn’t sanction nor protect them.

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.

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Scott Morefield

Scott Morefield

Scott Morefield is a news and opinion columnist for BizPac Review. In addition to his work on BPR, Scott's commentary can also be found on TheBlaze, The Hill, WND, Breitbart, National Review, The Federalist, and many other sites, including A Morefield Life, where he and his wife, Kim, share their marriage and parenting journey.
Scott Morefield

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