Game Meat Donation Liability Exemption

Summary

The vast majority of states in the nation now have a system in place (whether state-run or nonprofit) to provide hunters the option of donating game meat to those in need. However, processors’ ability to participate in donation programs may be limited by state contract or license agreements that require them to carry arduous liability insurance policies. In some instances, these liability insurance requirements have now become a barrier for processors to participate in the program.

Introduction

Throughout the country, hunters are working proactively within their communities to curb hunger through game meat donation programs (see issue brief). Most states now have a system in place, whether state-run or operated by a nonprofit organization, to provide hunters the option of donating game meat to people in need. However, a processor’s ability to participate in donation programs may be limited by state contracts or license agreements that require them to carry arduous liability insurance policies. Currently, Delaware, Indiana, and Michigan require processors to carry liability insurance in order to participate in game meat donation programs. Some non-profit programs, such as Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (which currently has 93 chapters in 22 states), also require participating processors to carry liability insurance. These liability insurance requirements may represent a barrier for processors interested in participating in the program.

Points of Interest

  • In Delaware, participating processors must contract with the state when joining the Sportsmen Against Hunger program, which involves a mandatory $1 million per occurrence and $3 million aggregate liability insurance policy (as opposed to the standard limits of $1M/$2M that most insurance companies offer). The higher coverage requirements result in an additional $250 in costs for the processors. This cost has contributed to a greater than 20% reduction in processor participation in the program. As a result, venison donations were 2,500 pounds lower in 2015 compared to the year prior. Legislation aimed at addressing this problem has failed to advance during the past several years.
  • In 1996, Pennsylvania became one of the first states to enact legislation protecting processors from liability, thereby negating the need to carry liability insurance. Pennsylvania HB664 amended the Donated Food Limited Liability Act to include wild game meat processors as being exempt from liability.
  • In 2010, Tennessee passed Senate Bill 2726 establishing “good-faith donor” protection from liability for game meat processors wishing to donate to nonprofit organizations.
  • In 2020, Tennessee’s “good-faith donor” protections were further strengthened by Senate Bill 2154 which increased the liability standards for donors from negligence to gross negligence.
  • Although several other states have some form of protection for food donors, many do not specifically protect game meat donors or processors

 

Language

  • The Donated Food Limited Liability Act in Pennsylvania became law in 1981 and PA HB 664 amended the Act in 1996 to include wild game meat donations as authorized products to be included in protection from liability.  “Any bona fide charitable or religious organization which receives, in good faith, donated food for ultimate distribution to needy individuals, either for free or for a nominal fee, shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability arising from the condition of such food, if the charitable or religious organization [reasonably] does all of the following: (1) reasonably inspects the food, at the time of donation and at the time of distribution, and finds the food fit for human consumption. (2) in the case of game animals or game birds, reasonably processes, prepares and distributes the food.”
  • Tennessee: TN Code § 53-13-102 – “The good-faith donor of any apparently wholesome food fit for human consumption shall not be subject to criminal penalty for violation of unfair trade practice laws or civil damages arising from the condition of the food, unless an injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct of the donor.”

Moving Forward

In recognition of the valuable role hunters and game meat processors play in providing high-quality food to those less fortunate, state legislators are encouraged to consider implementing liability exemptions for game processors to facilitate the continuation and expansion of the programs available in their respective states. Legislators may also consider the implementation of release of liability waivers to help alleviate the requirements for additional or excessive liability insurance.

Contact

For more information regarding this issue, please contact Kent Keene (202) 430-0655; kkeene@congressionalsportsmen.org

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