Watch Out For Indemnity, Liability Clauses

I read John R. Hall’s article “The Rising Cost of Insurance” [Aug. 25] with much interest. I agree one of the major liabilities an HVAC contractor now faces is mold coverage. But a larger risk may be a cost they can knowingly obligate themselves for and for which they can buy no insurance policy.

The contractor potentially assumes a contractual liability cost (to the HVAC owner and their company — not their insurance coverage) when the contractor signs a customer’s “terms and conditions” form that contains clauses such as “indemnify, defend, and hold the owner, its agents, employees, representatives, and customers harmless from: any and all claims whatsoever, all expenses incurred by the owner, damages, liabilities, demands, suits, actions, and expenses, including, without limitation attorneys’ fees, arising directly or indirectly from or in connection with …”

All insurance policies have terms, conditions, and exclusions that in some instances may prohibit coverage for “any and all, in connection with, arising from, directly or indirectly, claims whatsoever, etc.”

Many clients include language in their indemnity and general liability clauses so broad and so in favor of themselves, the contractual obligations the HVAC contractor assumes, by accepting their terms and conditions, could leave the contractor exposed to potentially uninsurable risks. I know many such clauses are signed without the owner’s specific knowledge of the liability their company is assuming.

Also, the client may not be aware of their own financial risks when they insist on language in their terms and conditions so broad, it creates only a contractual obligation for the HVAC contractor. Because of the language, the contractor may not have any underlying insurance to protect the client. The client needs to understand their right of recovery could be limited to the financial strength of the contractor.

This is a matter that merits further discussion. I believe it is a potentially disastrous transfer of liability to the HVAC contractor and everyone should be alerted to the risks.

Robert W. Ranson
Cii Engineered Systems Inc.
Richmond, Va.

National Prosperity And Energy Consumption

[Editor’s note:This letter is in response to Mark Skaer’s column “A No-Bull Global Energy Outlook,” July 7.]

There is no doubt in my mind that Mark Skaer is a very bright individual. I also understand the main point of his story about what pigs Americans are when it comes to energy consumption. However, Mark, you really upset me with your concern on what the rest of the world thinks of us — you mean like Germany and France, for example?

If those Europeans were nearly as prosperous as we are, their energy consumption would be up there, too. Please stop worrying about what the Europeans think of us. I believe that the majority would love to live just like us. The energy consumption is a direct result of prosperity!

But, I do concur that major efforts are needed to reduce the energy needed to provide us with the comforts that we Americans want and demand. There is a cost to living “the good life.”

Norman Belanger
Home Comfort Specialist
Victory Heating & Air
Bellingham, Mass.

Leave Dangerous Jobs To The Pros

I like John R. Hall’s humor in his [Aug. 25] column, “Buying Online — Who Needs Contractors?” It is really sad that we HVAC professionals train and retrain, learn and practice to keep people comfortable and safe, and some idiot (whom I don’t believe to be the manufacturer) screws up a market that is already mature, and puts the public at risk by selling something that can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

[It takes] four to six hours for a simple changeout? I’ll tell my installers that they are sandbagging because if Joe Citizen can do it in that time, we should be at least one-half again faster.

Mark Stansbury
Mark IV Environmental Systems Inc.
Greenwood, Ind.

Taking The Industry To The Next Level

[Editor’s note:This letter is in response to John R. Hall’s column “Taking Exit 14 (Formerly Exit 5),” Sept. 1.]

In Pennsylvania (land of perpetual construction and reconstruction), they have embarked on a plan to renumber all the interstate exits. The new system is to be in line with what other states have already done. Rather than numbering the exits sequentially, they are numbered by the distance, in miles, from a state line.

I would liken this to a new standard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the old one was bad or the new one better — it is just different. In our industry, the standards have changed. This means that the abilities and qualifications of the techs, salespeople, and other support personnel all have to rise up to a new level.

Designing, applying, and servicing air conditioning units has gotten more complex. Years ago, there were no solid-state controls and microprocessors (Old Exit 5); now it is the norm (New Exit 14). People in our industry should not have to take a back seat to anyone else in any other industry.

We need to attract better individuals as the complexity changes. We applaud the efforts of anyone or any group that is reaching out to attract the right people to our industry.

Rod Beever
VP, Sales & Marketing
United CoolAir Corp.
York, Pa.

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Publication date: 09/22/2003