New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens), Long Island Rail Road ("LIRR") President Helena Williams and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni today announced a new law protecting individuals who report suspicious behavior relating to a crime or an act of terrorism from lawsuits.
"Since the evil, terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we have encouraged people on airplanes, in buildings and aboard our subways and commuter trains to report anything they deem suspicious," said Senator Skelos. "The vigilance of everyday citizens is our first line of defense in the constant battle against terrorism. This commonsense law protects people who do the right thing."
Assemblyman Rory Lancman said, "Governor Spitzer's signature on the bi-partisan ‘Freedom to Report Terrorism Act’ ensures that honest New Yorkers who ‘see something’ and then ‘say something’ won't be sued for their efforts. Ordinary citizens are our first line of defense against terrorists, and we will not let terrorist sympathizers distort our legal system to intimidate people from reporting suspicious activity."
As sponsored by Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Lancman and signed into law, this legislation insulates people who disclose suspicious activity that they, in good faith, believe is related to a criminal or terrorist act. In addition, it requires the plaintiff in such a lawsuit to detail the alleged bad faith with particularity in his or her complaint. This establishes a high procedural hurdle for those attempting to commence a lawsuit against "Good Samaritans."
"We congratulate Governor Spitzer, Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Lancman for leading the way on this important piece of legislation that should encourage the public who use mass transit to report suspicious activity without fear of repercussions," said LIRR President Helena Williams. "The security and safety of our customers is our No. 1 concern and this new law helps us keep the system safe."
"The eyes and ears of our citizens are powerful tools to protect us from terrorism and other crime" said Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni. "People should feel comfortable sharing their concerns with law enforcement about those who would do harm. This new law ensures that those who share important information in good faith will be protected."
"Since September 11, 2001, everyone has been asked to do their part to keep our communities safe," said Assemblyman Bob Barra. "This vigilance has helped protect our country from another terrorist attack and it remains central to our homeland security. This new law will ensure that good people, who do the right thing, are protected from frivolous lawsuits and encourage more people to become involved."
On March 12, 2007, a lawsuit was filed against several airline passengers aboard Flight 300 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Phoenix who reported suspicious activity that they believed may be related to terrorism. While airline and mass transportation passengers are regularly advised to report any suspicious activity, many legal and security experts have expressed concern this lawsuit could have a chilling effect on airline security.