Evolving Fairness For Contractor Liability


There’s been some progress for snow contractors who are looking forward to legislative changes that will help level the playing field of liability exposure when working to keep sites they maintain safe for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Illinois became the first state to pass a law (SB2138) that limits the amount of liability that can be forced on snow and ice management contractors.

Specifically, the enacted law, Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act, says: “any provision in a snow plow and deicing services contract that purports to indemnify or hold harmless a promisee from or against liability for loss or damage resulting from the negligence or omissions of the promisee is against the public policy of this state and is void and unenforceable.”

This might not feel like much in the overall scheme of things, but it is a step in the right direction. This recently enacted law does not mean snow contractors are “off the hook” with regards to liability. They are not. Snow contractors still must do what is reasonable, prudent and within custom and practice in the snow industry with regards to keeping sites safe.

I’ve had some contractors say to me: “Illinois has it good, snow contractors can’t be held liable anymore.” That’s not nearly the truth. It means that snow contractors will no longer have to hold harmless the property owner or manager from things they may do wrong. Snow contractors will still be held responsible for acts of omissions of their own. And, this is how it should be.

Of course, this all has to be tested in the court systems in Illinois, and that may take several years to shake itself out. Snow contractors must act responsibly in their dealings with customers and the general public. All snow contractors are still tasked with providing a safe environment for those who use the sites they maintain. That does not change.

My personal opinion is that all professional snow and ice management contractors should abide by the ANSI/ASCA A-1000 System Requirements for Snow and Ice Management Services. This, combined with legislative change, will not eliminate lawsuits against snow contractors. However, there are statistics, published by the Accredited Snow Contractors Association, that prove that contractors who follow the ANSI A-1000 System Requirements are the target of fewer lawsuits than those who do not. Additionally, settlement dollars are lower for those who adhere to these standards.

However, the big winners in this is those who are not hurt because sites are safer for all who frequent them. Add to this the legislative changes that are in the works, pushing some of the liability exposure to where it belongs, and snow management contractors are witness to changes in our industry the likes of which we have never seen.

Snow contractors should sit up, take notice, get on board and be a part of the change that is afoot.