New state laws take effect

New laws went into effect in Connecticut Oct. 1. (Photo Wikipedia.)

New laws went into effect in Connecticut Oct. 1. (Photo Wikipedia.)

Laws affecting residents who live on private roads, how hospitals advise patients of their status, restricting e-cigarette sales and increasing fines for robo calls and unwanted telemarketing text messages are among a number of new laws that went into effect in Connecticut on Oct. 1.

Private roads

Homeowners who live on private roads without snowplowing and road maintenance agreements will get some direction and protection from Public Act 14-67.

The new law makes homeowners who use a private easement or right-of-way, such as a private road, to access their property responsible for the cost of its maintenance and repair, including snow removal.

Under the law, owners must share the cost according to any enforceable written agreement, or the proportion of benefit received by each property if there is no agreement. The act does not specify how to determine the proportion of benefit.

The law also requires a property owner who damages a portion of a private road to be responsible for its repair or restoration.

It further gives property owners the right to sue an owner who refuses to repair or restore damage for which he or she is solely responsible, or who fails to pay his or her share of the maintenance, repair, or restoration cost of the road.

Patient status

Public Act 14-180 requires hospitals to advise patients of their status — under observation or inpatient — within 24 hours of placement.

During the past few years, it has not been uncommon for patients to be admitted for treatment at hospitals on an observation status, rather than inpatient status. In some cases, they have not been informed of their status by hospitals. Patients on observation status may face costs that substantially exceed those they would otherwise incur.

This notice now required by law must include: 

• A statement that the patient is not admitted to the hospital but is under observation status.

• A statement that observation status may affect the patient’s Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance coverage for hospital services, including medications and pharmaceutical supplies; home or community-based care; and care at a skilled nursing facility upon the patient’s discharge.

• A recommendation that the patient contact his or her health insurance provider or the Office of the Healthcare Advocate to understand better the implications of placement in observation status.

E-cigarettes and minors

Public Act No. 14-76 is a a new law ratifying Gov. Dannel Malloy’s recommendations regarding electronic nicotine delivery systems and youth smoking prevention.

The law makes it illegal for a minor (under age 18) to buy or possess in public an “electronic nicotine delivery system” or “vapor product” — known as e-cigarettes — and for anyone to sell, give, or deliver one to a minor.

It subjects violators to some of the same penalties the law imposes on those who commit similar violations regarding tobacco cigarettes.

The act also imposes fines, in addition to existing civil penalties on people who sell improperly packaged or individual cigarettes.

The new law increases the amount of money the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund board of trustees can disburse annually, starting in 2014, and allows the board to operate in 2016. A prior law had suspended the board’s operation for 2016. 

Robo and telemarketing calls

Public Act 14-14 increases the maximum fine from $500 to $1,000 for anyone who transmits unsolicited business, commercial, or advertising messages to in-state customers through recorded telephone message devices that do not disconnect immediately when the consumer hangs up, also known as “robocalls.”

In an effort to modernize the state’s “Do Not Call” registry, Public Act 14-53 makes it illegal for telemarketers to send unwanted text messages.

The new law expands the scope of laws regulating telemarketers to include text and media messages sent to a person’s cell phone or electronic device. It bans such unsolicited messages at anytime regardless of whether or not the person is on the “Do Not Call” registry, unless the telemarketer has received prior express consent to send the messages.

The law increases the maximum fine for each registry violation from $11,000 to $20,000 and requires companies that issue account statements for cell phones, telephones, and mobile devices to send consumers a written notice at least twice each year informing them of how to place their numbers on the “Do Not Call” registry and how to file a complaint with the state Department of Consumer Protection.

Telecommunications companies may still send free text or media messages to an existing consumer if: it is to collect an existing debt that has not been paid; in connection to an existing contract with the consumer; or a wireless emergency alert authorized by federal law. 

Text messages are also allowed when the consumer has previously requested customer service.

Teen dating violence

Public Act No. 14-234 requires local boards of education to address teen dating violence in schools in the same way the law requires them to address bullying.

This includes establishing, within available appropriations, a safe school climate plan and resource network to identify, prevent, and educate people about such violence and providing teen dating violence prevention, identification and response training to certain school employees.

The law also expands the circumstances under which the court may issue a standing criminal protective order to include situations involving violations against non-family or non-household members.

The law now makes it a Class A misdemeanor to maliciously disclose the location of an emergency shelter operated by a domestic violence agency without the written authorization of that agency.

Maple-sugaring immunity

Public Act No. 14-18 provides immunity to a landowner who permits persons to engage in maple-sugaring activities without charge.

Under this law, any owner of land who invites or permits any person to enter the land or a part thereof to harvest firewood, with or without charge, or to enter the land or a part thereof to harvest fruits or vegetables or engage in maple-sugaring activities, without charge, shall not be liable for damages as a result of injury to such person when such injury arises out of the use of the land or out of the act of harvesting firewood, or harvesting fruits or vegetables, or engaging in maple-sugaring activities, unless the injury is caused by the owner’s failure to warn of a dangerous hidden hazard actually known to the owner.

Lifeguards

Under Public Act No. 14-36, persons who are employed as lifeguards are allowed to receive certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross or the American Safety and Health Institute.

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