Commercial property owners in Colorado now have more reason than ever to make sure their sidewalks and roadways are adequately cleared after a winter storm.
That’s because those owners will no longer be able to pass on their liability to the snow- and ice-removal companies they hire.
Under a newly enacted law, the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act, certain indemnity agreements common in condominium association and commercial property snow-removal contracts will no longer be upheld by the courts. The law became effective on Aug. 8.
Similar legislation passed in Illinois and lawmakers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Massachusetts are considering it, too.
Many snow-removal contractors are small companies. To secure new business, the owners of these companies have often found themselves with their backs against the wall. They had to either walk away from the opportunity or sign a property owner’s or property management company’s standard snow-removal contract form, which are written with broad indemnity clauses to protect the owner’s interests.
“Unfortunately, this scenario happens all too often in our industry where a property owner insists on contract language that passes on any and all incidents, accidents and injuries related to snow and ice management to the contractor doing the work,” said Accredited Snow Contractors Association Executive Director Kevin Gilbride.
The problem, he said, is that often snow-removal contracts dictate that the contractor may not start plowing until there are two inches of snow accumulation. “As a professional snow and ice management contractor, if you sign an agreement like this, then you are liable for any slip-fall incident on the property, even if there is only an inch on the ground and the property owner has not yet instructed you to salt,” Gilbride said.
Shifting the liability
Now, with the new law in place, liability will rest, as it should, with those whose acts and omissions caused harm, giving property owners all the reason in the world to get their sidewalks and roads on their property cleared as soon as possible.
The new legislation does not apply to snow-removal contracts for services on public roads, at public utilities, or at public or other commercial airports.
Also, note that the law applies only to snow-management contracts signed after the effective date of the law. Previously signed contracts are not subject to the new rules.
If you’re in the snow-removal business and have existing contracts in place, you might do well talking to your attorney about renegotiating the terms of those contacts.
Michael Kline is a CCIG Vice President. Reach him at MichaelK@thinkccig.com or 720-212-2042.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you manage your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.
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