Several “lawsuit reform” measures passed by the 2017 Iowa legislature are becoming law this Saturday. One new law will shield more than 100 fairs in Iowa from lawsuits over transmission of the bird flu and other diseases from the animals on exhibit.
The State Fair as well as county and district fairs are included. “The liability exemption is contingent upon the fair authority posting a warning sign at conspicuous places at the fair where people visit for the first time, so they would notice it,” Representative Chuck Holz, a veterinarian from Le Mars, said during House debate of the proposal.
The signs are to warn against touching the animals and to encourage fair-goers to frequently wash their hands to prevent the spread of disease.
Tom Barnes with the Association of Iowa Fairs said county fairs have had similar warnings in the past, but the new law spells out exactly what they have to say.
“There has to be a sign posted at the very first point of entry into the livestock area warning fairgoers of the possible pathogenic diseases,” Barnes said, “and all of our fairs, I know, are getting those signs prepared.”
Barnes said visitors to animal exhibits in other states have sued after contracting infections.
According to Senator Dan Zumbach of Ryan, going to a fair carries an “inherent risk.”
“Some of these risks, such as being kicked or stepped on, are obvious, but exposure to pathogens — however — is not as obvious as a physical injury from an animal, ” Zumbach said during senate debate this spring. “This bill protects county and district fairs as well as the state fair from liability caused by pathogens believed to be encountered at these fair events.”
The Association of Iowa Fairs and the Iowa State Fair lobbied for this new legal protection. The bill passed the Iowa House unanimously. Only one member of the Iowa Senate voted against it.
Republicans who hold a majority of seats in the legislature approved several other bills that change the rules for lawsuits. The GOP changed liability standards in workers compensation claims, asbestos poisoning cases and medical malpractice lawsuits as well as so-called “nuisance” lawsuits filed against farmers.