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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 17, 2019 01:55 PM
From: Representative Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Commercial Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce legislation which would re-establish basic fairness and equity in contracting in a particular industry that affects many Pennsylvanians. Specifically, the legislation will accomplish this by nullifying certain indemnity clauses widely used in snow removal contracts.

These clauses, which are often called “hold harmless” agreements, are features of a contract that are designed to release one of the parties of the snow removal contract, from legal claims. Generally, one party agrees to accept liability for all expenses, damages, or losses arising from a transaction or activity – regardless of who is at fault.
In the context of snow removal contracts, most snow removal contractors are not required to remove snow until there are 2 inches of snowfall. However, this ‘trigger’ can be more or less. If there is a light dusting, and there is a slip and fall incident, most snow removal contractors are still forced to accept liability for the fall – even though they were not contracted to remove snow at the time and may not even have been on the premises. These unfair contracts have been used by many larger retail chains to force small business owners (snow contractors) to assume liability which should be borne by the property owner. Because this unfair language can sometimes pin the client and contractor against each other, insurance carriers are forced to charge smaller contractors for two separate defense lawyers.

Exponentially increased liability insurance rates, are the net effect of these hold harmless agreements on the professional snow and ice management industry. Not only is this unfair, but the increased cost of doing business for these small business owners is passed on to the customer, which is bad for all Pennsylvanians. Additionally, insurance carriers have left the industry, making it harder for these contractors to obtain insurance. Many contractors are leaving the industry as well because of the shortage of insurance carriers. If we don’t do something about this soon, the risk of losing snow removal contractors will quickly elevate.

My bill simply places the liability with the appropriate party. If the property owner or manager is at fault, then he or she is liable; if the snow contractor is at fault, he or she is liable. Small business owners who remove snow, should not be forced to accept liability for the actions or decisions of another party.

When property owners are able to pass-on their own liability, there is a decreased incentive to maintain properties safely; resulting in people being injured.

A similar law has passed in Illinois and the net effect has been very positive for the industry. For example, insurance carriers are entering back into the market, snow contractors are seeing up to a 38% reduction in insurance premiums, and property owners are choosing more qualified contractors which provides a much safer environment for the residents of Pennsylvania.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important, business-friendly legislation.

View Attachment

Introduced as HB1702