We are approaching that time of year when professional snow-plow operators begin entering into contracts with property owners for the coming snow season.
To help limit the potential for lawsuits and your liability, here are some tips:
Preferably no “Additional Insured” status should be granted to owners and no “Indemnification” clauses should be used in your contract, holding you responsible for property damage or injuries as a result of your snow plow operations.
Your contract should be limited as to when your duties begin.
Language such as:
- Snowplowing operations begin after 2 or more inches of fallen snow,
- Removal of snow will be under the supervision or to the satisfaction of the owner or its agents,
- Owner shall be responsible to monitor the premises and to remedy any snow and ice condition where the precipitation is less than 2 inches and/or when contractor is not on the premises’ are most preferred.
If you are required to sign a contract written by the premises owner, you should request indemnification language that only requires you to indemnify the owner for ‘your’ negligence and not that of others such as the owner himself.
If you are required to sign a contract written by the premises owner then you should also complete a work proposal that has the scope of work and limitations and obligations of the owner as stated above. This work proposal will be used in conjunction with the contract to help limit your liability exposure.
Complete accurate snowplow logs noting the date and time of plowing, salting and sanding activities are important for the proper defense of claims initiated against you!
Sample Language to Include in a Contract or on a Work Order
Use narrow language!
Always refer to “Snowplow Operations” or “Sanding or Salting Operations” instead of “Snow Removal” or “De-Icing.”
Define the Contractor’s obligations under the Contract! Identify when and where the Contractor is to plow, sand or salt:
“The Contractor will only plow the premises upon an accumulation of 2 inches of fresh snowfall.”
“The Contractor will only sand or salt the premises upon specific request by the Owner. A separate charge for this service will apply.”
“The premises subject to this Contract are defined as : rear parking lot only.”
“The premises include all roadways / driving surfaces and specifically exclude parking spaces and pedestrian walkways.”
If the Owner insists upon including an indemnity clause, the Contractor should not indemnify the Owner for anything more than the Contractor’s own negligence.
For example, the Contractor should not be responsible for a faulty drainpipe on the Owner’s building that leads to a reoccurring icy condition.
“Contractor hereby agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Owner from and against any and all liability, claims, suits, or demands of damage or loss arising out of either direct or indirect activity of the Contractor.”
“Contractor agrees to indemnify and save harmless the Owner from any and all liability arising as a result of the Contractor’s own negligence.”
Use reverse indemnification language to protect the Contractor:
“The Owner agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Contractor from and against any and all damage and / or liability arising out of any incident that occurs either before the Contractor performs his duties under the Contract or after the Contractor has left the premises.”
“Owner agrees to indemnify and save harmless the Contractor from any and all liability arising as a result of the Owner’s own negligence.”
Language to Avoid
“…contractor agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Owner from claims arising out of, or in any way related to the services provided…
“…contractor agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Owner from claims arising out of direct or indirect activity…”
Make a diagram of the property to be plowed. Detail the areas you are responsible for and where the snow will be pushed to. Use Google Earth or other tools for an aerial view.
Notify the owner of problem areas such as leaking downspouts, plugged drains where ice will accumulate. Also damaged pavement that could result in a slip and fall.
Do not use terms like snow removal unless you are responsible for physically removing snow from the premises – otherwise you are plowing the snow.
Disclaimer: This is presented as information only and not intended to provide legal services. You should consult a lawyer in your state for legal advice.