For years, the most common complaint among those that do professional snow and ice management has been the unfair liability transfer from the property owner to the snow contractor. Indemnification clauses and hold harmless agreements are the one of the main reasons the industry is becoming uninsurable. The clauses are often forced upon the contractor to either agree to them, or walk away from the work.
There are many variations of these clauses, but they all have the same impact. By signing an agreement with one of these clauses in it, effectively the snow contractor agrees to hold the property owner harmless for any and all incidents that occur on the property related to snow and ice. The main occurrence of course is the costly slip and fall. Once a claim comes in, the plaintiff sues the property owner and the snow contractor. However, with this clause the snow contractor now has to defend both themselves and the property owner. So the insurance carrier for the snow contractor now has to hire two different attorneys, due to conflict of interest, to defend the parties involved.
This of course patently unfair. It does give you a better understanding of why you are seeing insurance rates go through the roof.
A little over a year ago, the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) initiated our plan to rid the industry of this unfair practice. We have begun state level initiatives to enact legislation to make these clauses null and void. To date, 14 months into our initiatives we have some good news to report.
The state of Illinois passed our bill, the Snow Removal Limited Liability Act, unanimously in both the Senate and House. This bill, Senate Bill 2138, was sent to the Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on June 27. He has 60 days to act and is expected to sign it. This would make the law effective immediately.
The state of Michigan passed House Bill 5230 in the House in May, and ASCA expects it will pass the Senate in September.
The state of Pennsylvania is now moving House Bill 2195 and ASCA reports the House intends to pass that bill this year.
ASCA also introduced the bill in both New Jersey and New York and is working to get this legislation enacted in all snow states. This would be a huge step in the right direction for all snow contractors.
ASCA member companies have been active in getting this legislation moving by writing letters and holding state legislative days to education their representatives on this bill and how it impacts them.
To get involved contact the ASCA at 216-393-0303 or at www.ascaonline.org.