New Proposed Legislation Would Immunize Design Professionals From Tort Liability
Last year, a bill that passed both legislative houses, which would have completely protected engineers and architects from tort liability arising from their defective work, was vetoed by Governor Christ. This year, with a new governor in office, the bill has been filed in the Florida Senate once again. Senate Bill 288 would provide that somebody who hires architects or engineers cannot sue them for negligence arising out of their defective design or other work. Rather, the claimant would be limited to suing them for breach of contract. This is a problem because most design contracts limit the design professional’s liability to some paltry amount that pales in comparison to the harm that comes from defective design.
But it gets worse. SB 288 further provides that a design professional’s contract cannot limit liability in a manner inconsistent with coverage available under professional liability insurance. It also provides that, if the design professional’s contract requires professional liability insurance and the professional fails to maintain it, the professional can be sued for negligence. Do you know what that means? It means the design professionals will no longer carry insurance nor sign contracts requiring insurance because carrying insurance could cause them to lose the protection of their limitation of liability clause in their contract, which would protect them far more than insurance would. Therefore, this senate bill would allow design professionals to defectively design building components, causing significant monetary damage to their clients, yet limit their liability to some nominal sum and cancel all their professional liability insurance. Don’t take my word for it – read the bill and see for yourself how ludicrous this is. No other professionals are entitled to such extreme protection. Doctors, lawyers, and accountants cannot limit their exposure for their own negligence in this fashion. And there is no justification for singling out architects and engineers for this type of insulation.
If you are bothered by this legislation, contact your legislators now and speak out. Feel free to contact me for speaking points you can use or distribute among your colleagues. Many industry groups are already mobilizing to fight this bad bill and your help and participation could strengthen the fight.