RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A motorist who strikes a protester blocking a public road in North Carolina would be immune from civil liability — under a bill before lawmakers — if the driver exercised "due care."
Backers of the proposal advancing Wednesday in the North Carolina House said granting immunity would protect drivers traveling legally on a highway or street when a protester is injured.
Republican sponsor Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle said during debate that drivers couldn't deliberately run over protesters and avoid responsibility under the proposal receiving preliminary approval. But he said it does protect individuals who are rightfully trying to drive on the road.
Lawmakers referred to demonstrators on Charlotte streets last September after a fatal shooting by a police officer. The protesters blocked both downtown Charlotte roads and interstate highways.
"We are trying the protect your average citizen who may be out there driving on the road and potentially have someone run out in front of their vehicle in the middle of night who is trying to cause major disruptions on our roads," Burr said. Preliminary approval followed on a 68-48 vote.
Opponents called the measure unconstitutional or unnecessary because negligence claims fail in North Carolina when jurors determine victims contributed to their injury.
"I don't know in what universe a person can run out in front of a car, and they're going to win a personal injury case in North Carolina," said Democratic Rep. Robert Reives of Sanford. Others worried aloud that the measure would bring needless attention to the state.
If the House grants it final approval, the measure still must pass the Senate.