This is the time of year to review contract language pertaining to professional snow and ice management services, in both your own documents and those supplied by property managers/owners. Take this time to clarify confusing, conflicting and out-of-date phrasing about winter services and liability, as well as ensure the contracts align with recent changes in state law that impact snow and ice management. Justine A. Baakman, an associate in the Philadelphia and Morristown, NJ, offices of Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP, offers some key contract areas to play particular attention to during this process.
Strike any contract language that enforces a zero-tolerance policy, such as language that indicates a site must always be free from snow and ice. “Zero tolerance” is unrealistic expectation and places a nearly impossible burden on the professional servicing a property.
While you’re at it, strike contract language requiring a contractor to hold harmless and indemnify the property owner/manager for the property owner/manager’s own negligence. This places an unnecessary burden on the contractor to defend a party for its own negligence.
And strike any language that requires a snow contractor to receive permission from a property owner/manager to subcontract the performance of services.
On The Clock
If the contract calls for an ice watch, make sure an ice watch is clearly defined. For example, an ice watch may be defined as servicing for a re-freeze within the first 24 hours after a precipitation event occurs. If possible, include a specific period of time – 24 hours, 48 hours, etc. – from the last precipitation event that an ice watch will encompass.
Do It Now
Make sure the activation of services is occurring in practice in the same way the contract outlines. If it’s not, ask for a supplement to the original contract, or at a minimum, confirm via email to the property owner/manager how the activation of services is occurring in reality despite the contract language
If the property is large enough, make sure the contract clearly designates the priority areas a snow and ice contractor should pay particular attention to when services are provided.