By Hal Barrow
Indemnity Clauses in Snow Removal Contracts – Who Makes the Call?
It is customary – and good practice – in many service contracts to find an indemnity provision, obligating the service provider to hold the client harmless from any damages that might arise from his/her work. A common example is a snow removal contract, where the snow removal contractor promises to stand behind its work in the event of any claims, either for property damage or for personal injury. Some well-placed lobbying by the contractors has recently focused on a frequent area of dispute and created a problematic limit on those contracts.
Pennsylvania has long had a statute governing indemnity contracts for vendors such as architects, engineers or surveyors and owners, contractors, subcontractors or suppliers. On July 11, Governor Wolf approved an amendment to that law, HB 1665, that purports to protect snow removal contractors. The new law says that:
In a snow removal or ice control services contract between a provider and a receiver, any provision in the contract which provides that the receiver shall be indemnified, held harmless or insured by the provider from damages, claims, losses or expenses arising out of bodily injury to persons, damage to property or economic damage caused by or resulting from the receiver’s negligence, in whole or in part, shall be void if the provider has been affirmatively directed not to perform the snow removal or ice control services by the receiver.
Snow removal should address when the contractor should start work and/or who makes the determination for when that will happen. Making that decision has enormous practical impact on the community. Now, how that decision is communicated will be critical in protecting associations and preserving their indemnity rights. It’s not hard to envision contractors trying to avoid their indemnity obligations by claiming that they were told to do or not to do something. Lawyers will always tell that you should “get it in writing.” Good practice always dictates making a record of the instructions given to contractors, and in modern times most often by email. With this new law, good practice for associations will include having detailed provisions in snow removal contract about how those directions are given and who can give them.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.