Bill would give docks immunity

Government: Legislation would allow city to charge fees, protect against legal responsibility

of the GatewayFebruary 26, 2014 

A bill that would protect maritime communities against liability when there is an injury on a public dock was approved last week by the state Senate.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.

Gig Harbor listed immunity from being held liable for injuries on docks as a top legislative priority. The city wants to charge moorage fees, but that would waive immunity.

Mayor Jill Guernsey said fees are necessary in order to provide services such as water and power at the docks. She said she’s not aware of any accidents.

The goal of the legislation is to have both immunity and fees to provide services.

The city wants to encourage boaters to visit Gig Harbor, Guernsey said.

Previously, if a visitor who paid to use the dock was hurt, the city would be legally responsible for any injuries. The bill allows for a minimal fee.

“This bill provides the solution (Gig Harbor) needs to continue offering public dock space for residents and guests,” Angel stated in a news release.

The bill would benefit 12 other maritime communities as well, Angel said.

In 2000, the state Supreme Court ruled that charging fees on public docks would waive immunity. Docks without fees are covered by the state’s recreational-use statute.

Angel said similar legislation has been applied to the Discover Pass and off-road vehicle parks.

The bill moved from the Senate to the House of Representatives.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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