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New Florida Law Protects Design Professionals…And Geologists, Too

James W. Martin

Architects, interior designers, landscape architects, engineers, surveyors, and geologists licensed in Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. The Legislature and Governor have given them a new law to limit their liability for negligence, in certain cases, if they jump through the right hoops. And it does not take effect until July 1, 2013. So, is it worth holding off signing big contracts until then?

On April 24, 2013, the Governor signed into law Chapter 2013-28, Laws of Florida, which adds Section 558.0035 to the Florida Statutes. It says that a design professional is not individually liable for damages resulting from negligence if the following conditions are met:

  1. The professional is employed by a business entity or an agent of a business entity;
  2. The negligence occurs within the course and scope of a professional services contract;
  3. The contract is made between the business entity and a claimant, or is made with another entity providing professional services to the claimant;
  4. The contract does not name as a party to the contract the individual who will perform the professional services;
  5. The contract includes a prominent statement (in uppercase font five sizes larger than the rest of the text) that pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 558.0035 an individual employee or agent may not be held individually liable for negligence;
  6. The business entity maintains any professional liability insurance required under the contract; and
  7. Any damages are solely economic in nature and do not extend to personal injuries or property not subject to the contract.

The new law is generating lots of buzz among construction lawyers who are analyzing every word because it is thought that design professional employees, at least until July 1, 2013, have individual (personal) liability for their negligence. It appears that this new statute is an attempt to override the case law. Which is good if you’re a design professional…not so good if you’re a claimant.

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