Don't Let the Fear of Legal Liability Keep You From Donating Wholesome Food (members ed.)

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December 1, 2005 - Alex Beard is a shareholder with the Dallas law firm of Bishop & Hummert, P.C. Contact him at [email protected].

Each year, restaurants and grocers donate literally tons of canned goods and other non-perishable food items to food banks and other charitable organizations, who in turn distribute the food directly to the poor and homeless.  Many of these same food service providers are reluctant to donate fresh, wholesome food, however, for fear of being sued and subjected to legal liability in the event someone becomes ill after eating it.  as a result, substantial amounts of wholesome food are thrown away each day, when that food could be used to feed the hungry.

It doesn't have to be that way, and in fact, the Texas Legislature has enacted legislation designed to encourage the donation of wholesome food without undue fear of liability.  The law, called the Good Faith Donor Act, provides that a person or organization who donates apparently wholesome food to a church or other non-profit organization for distribution to the needy is not subject to civil or criminal liability that arises from the condition of the food, unless injury or death results from gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct by the donor.  The same law affords similar protection to the non-profit organizations which distribut what they believe to be wholesome food to the needy at no charge, provided they are in substantial compliance with applicable local, county, state and federal laws and rules regarding the storage and handling of food for distribution to the public.  Consequently, restaurants and grocers who donate apparently wholesome food to churches and other non-profit organizations are shielded from liability for simple negligence in connection with their donatios, and will only be subject to potential legal liability for intentional, grossly negligent or reckless conduct that results in injury or sickness.

Requests for donations of food are at all-time high levels, especially in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Don't let the fear of legal liability keep you or your business from doing its part.  The food you donate may keep a child from going to bed hungry.  It may also provide a tax deduction, and will keep otherwise nourishing food from going to waste.  So keep your good faith donations coming.

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