Under legislation authored by Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) and Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Texans who provide labor or assistance to the Texas Forest Service for fighting wildfires will now be protected from tort liability under certain circumstances. SB 1267 and its House companion, HB 275, immunizes an individual who provides such assistance from civil damages for an act, error, or omission, unless the act, error, or omission: (1) proximately causes the claimant’s loss; and (2) was performed with malice or constituted gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. The bill applies to damages for personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, death or other loss resulting from the act, error, or omission.
SB 1267 is aimed primarily at timberland investment and management organizations (TIMOs), which manage hundreds of thousands of acres of private forest land in Texas. These companies work closely with the Texas Forest Service to train their employees to fight wildfires. They also have the safety and heavy equipment needed to enhance the state’s firefighting capacity, but liability concerns have constrained their use in battling fires that occur beyond the boundaries of the particular TIMO’s property. The bill is intended to allow TIMO employees to assist adjoining landowners without undue risk of incurring liability arising out of that assistance. The new law went into effect on May 10 and will facilitate TFS’s ability to coordinate and deliver the necessary resources to fight fires in the long, hot summer ahead. TCJL congratulates Rep. Clardy and Sen. Nichols for this important legislation.