Sen. Marty Knollenberg
Sen. Marty Knollenberg

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that would excuse a person from civil liability if damage resulted from forcible entry into a motor vehicle to remove a minor or animal from the vehicle under certain circumstances.

Senate Bill 566, introduced by state Sen. Marty Knollenberg, would provide civil immunity to an individual who forcibly enters a vehicle to save an animal or minor who is reasonably believed to be in danger.

“This bill would mean anyone who has reason to believe that breaking a car window in order to save the life of a child or pet can’t get sued for doing it,” said Knollenberg, R-Troy. “An individual must contact police before or after doing it and leave a note with their contact information.”

An individual who did all of the following would be immune from civil liability for any damage done to a vehicle:

  • Determined that the vehicle was locked and there was no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the vehicle, or an alternative method to gain entry;
  • Had reasonable belief, based on the circumstances known at the time, that forcibly entering the vehicle was necessary because the minor or animal was in danger;
  • Contacted the local law enforcement agency, or fire department, before or after forcibly entering the vehicle;
  • Placed a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with his contact information, the reason for the entry, the location of the minor or animal, and a statement that the local authorities had been notified; and
  • Remained with the minor or animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until a law enforcement, fire, or other emergency responder arrived.

Knollenberg noted that the significance of this legislation is ever-increasing as Michiganders make their way toward warmer weather and increased instances of animals or children being left in cars are happening across the state.

“We are seeing more and more of these occurrences in the news,” Knollenberg said. “Since 1998, 10 Michigan children, and numerous animals have died of heatstroke while locked in a car. One child even died on a 73-degree day. A child’s body cannot regulate temperature changes as well as an adult’s can and if this bill saves even one life, I think it’s something we should do.”

SB 566 will now go before the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration.