Representative Louis W. Blessing III (R-Colerain Township) recently introduced HB 159 to regulate the use of indemnity provisions in professional design contracts related to public improvements. The purpose of the proposed legislation is to prohibit public agencies from requiring design professionals to indemnify them from claims which are not attributable to negligent or other wrongful conduct on the part of the design professional.
Under certain existing state and local contracts, design professionals may be required to defend public entities against third party claims before there is a determination that the design professional has committed an error. These “broad-form” indemnification requirements may also include a “duty to defend” where the design professional is similarly required to retain an attorney to defend the public agency against third party claims before any legal liability for the claim has been established. These types of indemnification requirements impose obligations which are typically not covered by professional liability insurance which only applies to claims caused by the engineer or architect’s negligent conduct.
H.B. 159 attempts to bring indemnity obligations in line with principles of fairness and the availability of insurance coverage. The bill acknowledges that while design professionals are legally responsible for damages caused by their own professional negligence, they should not be required to indemnify and/or defend a public agency for losses that he or she did not cause and which are uninsurable.
BMD will continue to follow this proposed legislation as it moves through the legislative process.
Additionally, you may reach out to your local representative to share your support for or opposition to this bill.
If you have questions or need more information regarding the potential impact of HB 159, please contact BMD's Construction Law Group, or contact: Robert A. Hager, Justin M. Alaburda or Martin J. Pangrace.