HARRISBURG, PA – On the heels of our region’s first measurable snowfall of the season, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to reestablish basic fairness in snow removal contracting. House Bill 1665
would nullify certain indemnity clauses in snow removal contracts, said the legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Delaware).
“The ‘hold harmless’ provisions in many commercial property snow removal contracts force contractors to accept responsibility for any slip-and-fall or other damages associated with a snow event even if the accumulation threshold in the contract hasn’t been reached,” said Quinn.
“These unfair clauses are often used by many big box retail chains to force small business owners (snow contractors) to assume liability, which should be borne by the property owner.”
Most snow removal contractors are not required to remove snow until there are 2 inches of snowfall. This ‘trigger’ can vary. Standard hold harmless provisions, typically used by larger retail chains to force contractors to assume liability even though they were not under obligation to remove snow and may not even have been on the premises.
“These unfair contracts shift responsibility for damages which should be borne by the property owner,” said Quinn. “Because this unfair language often pits 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 small business owners who are most typically proprietors of snow removal businesses. The increased cost of doing business for these small business owners is ultimately passed on to the customer, which is bad for all Pennsylvanians,” concluded Quinn.
While Quinn noted insurance carriers and snow removal contractors have left the industry, a similar law passed in Illinois resulted in carriers reentering the market and up to a 38% reduction in insurance premiums.
“When property owners are able to pass on their liability, there is a decreased incentive to maintain properties safely resulting in more injuries,” said Quinn. “This issue is one of fundamental fairness, and I am gratified this important legislation has passed the House.”
House Bill 1665 now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Chris Quinn
168th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: John Kelemen