Legal Issues

Eating on StepMany of you may be worried about the legal ramifications of food donations. Donating to agencies is different than handing food to a homeless person on the street.  If you are worried about being sued for your gift of food, you need to know about the “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Law.”

The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act

On October 1, 1996, “The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”,  P.L. 104-210, was enacted. This is a federal law to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to needy individuals.  It provides a uniform, national standard of liability protection to individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations that act in good faith to donate and distribute food to needy people.

This law protects those who donate food in good faith from civil or criminal liability should such donated food later cause harm to a recipient. The Good Samaritan law sets a liability floor of “gross negligence” for persons who donate food.  Gross negligence is defined as: “voluntary and conscious conduct by a person with knowledge (at the time of conduct) that the conduct is likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person.”

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