HB-5230 is a Michigan state bill passed through the House on May 24th, 2016. The long and short of the bill states that commercial property owners cannot move their liability for winter safety on their property completely to the snow contractor. Worded in a different way, if a property owner is responsible for hazardous conditions on their property, then the property owner needs to be held accountable.
The bill is meant to solve a problem. The problem comes in when a property owner who cares little about the safety of people on their property has the bright idea that they can just move the risk of lawsuits over to the snow contractor. To be clear, we are NOT talking about all property owners, nor even responsible property owners that ask their snow contractors to take on additional liability, just the few bad apples that ruin the day for everyone else.
The bad apples first put in the snow removal contract that ALL winter weather related accidents are fully the responsibility of the snow contractor meaning any slip and fall lawsuits become 100% the snow removal contractor’s responsibility. Then the property owner ties the snow contractor’s hands by limiting what work can be done to make the property safe specifying what they will and will not pay the snow contractor to complete.
Do you see the problem? It is as if your eldest child does something wrong and yet you discipline the youngest child for what happened. That makes no sense.
It is a real problem when the person who dictates what will be done to keep the property safe does not pay any consequences if someone gets hurt. These unethical property owners take the cheapest level of service they feel they can get away with because the cost of safety is someone else’s problem. This practice puts everyone at risk so now we can look at who wins with HB-5230.
When the right people are held accountable, customers, employees, and tenants on Michigan parking lots will be kept safer. When the risk of a lawsuit comes back to the property owner, more property owners will do what is right for Michigan residents and keep safe parking lots and walkways.
Safer properties mean less lawsuits, clear and simple. If the insurance company is not stuck defending against a preventable lawsuit, they are definitely happy.
The biggest winner is the inexperienced snow contractor who is not aware of the dangers in signing a contract where they take full responsibility for any lawsuit. Many smaller companies have closed their doors when caught in this trap with a significant lawsuit at hand.
Bigger and experienced snow removal contractors, like we here at Sneller Snow Systems, also win, because our insurance rates stay lower when snow contractors as a group have less lawsuits. Lower insurance rates mean we can keep our rates reasonable, which leads us to the final winner.
Most property owners want to keep their property safe. Their diligence means happier customers, employees, and tenants. They also keep their costs down because one bad accident can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. With less people getting hurt, there should become a secondary benefit of better insurance rates and snow removal rates for everyone.
The only person that really loses with HB-5230 are the people that do not want to take responsibility for their own actions. Since these people can no longer pass the buck, when a lawsuit comes, they will have to foot the bill.
Safer Michigan winters, people being held accountable, and keeping costs in check, doesn’t that sound like the right thing to do? We agree and we look forward to maybe seeing this piece of legislation becoming law one day soon in the state of Michigan.