The California Legislature Passes SB 496 Limiting Design Professional Defense and Indemnity Obligations
Since 2008 when the California legislature limited subcontractor indemnity obligations, the design professional community has been shouting “what about us?” Well, the legislature finally responded and a new law that limits design professional’s defense and indemnity obligations to their percentage of fault goes into effect on January 1, 2018.
The New Law - SB496
SB 496 amends California Civil Code section 2782.8 and states that indemnity agreements must be limited to the negligence, recklessness or willful misconduct of the indemnitee (i.e. no more Type I indemnity with design professionals). The amendment also provides that “in no event shall the cost to defend charged to the design professional exceed the design professional’s proportionate percentage of fault”, with a limited opportunity for reallocation in the event another defendant is judgment proof.
However, the duty to defend still remains and still arises at the time of the tender of the defense (both issues that were unsuccessfully targeted by the design professional lobbyists).
What Can Be Done Now?
Developers and Owners should strongly consider reviewing and revising the indemnity provisions in their consultant contracts to comply with the new legislation before the first of the year. This includes master agreements because project addenda entered into after January 1 are subject to the new law. The statute does not apply to current contracts, so these do not need to be amended.
Questions? Newmeyer & Dillion is happy to assist in navigating the process to ensure you are compliant prior to January’s deadline. Please let us know how we can help.