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Volunteer Protection Act is hailed

May 30, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A Hagerstown-based advocacy group Wednesday applauded legislation that would protect volunteers from lawsuits.

The Volunteer Protection Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives 190-35 and the Senate on a unanimous voice vote, would shield people from lawsuits when engaging in volunteer work. The bill includes exceptions for those who act maliciously, criminally or who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Michael O'Connor, executive director of Western Maryland Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, said he expects President Clinton to sign the legislation.

O'Connor said fear of lawsuits discourages volunteer work. Even when they win, suits still cost money in time and lawyers' fees, he added.

"People who volunteer shouldn't find themselves threatened by lawsuits," he said. "We applaud any kind of effort that will protect people from being sued frivolously."

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O'Connor said volunteers are particularly important in an era of tight government budgets. He noted that his organization takes out liability insurance to cover the volunteer board members and officers.

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