AIA|WA Bill on Contract Fairness Receives Hearing in House

On the first day of the 2012 Legislative Session, the AIA|WA was already pushing its agenda forward. The legislature opened with a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on EHB 1559; a bill drafted and supported by the AIA|WA and its allies in the design professions.

This bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives in 2011, but ran into a wall of opposition from public agencies in the Senate.

Peter Rasmussen, FAIA, AIA|WA Immediate Past-President testified in support of EHB 1559 along with Stan Beck, an attorney with Lane Powell in Seattle, and other representatives of the design professions.  

EHB 1559, puts a new provision in law that prohibits agencies from requiring that architects indemnify and pay for the agencies’ defense costs for actions not resulting from the architect’s negligence. This is a growing problem as agencies look to shift any costs they can to someone else. As the lead design professional on projects, the risk is highest for architects.

Agencies claim that shifting risk and costs to the architects is fair. They claim they don’t pressure anyone to sign these contracts; they are willing to take them out if asked. But, we know different. We know that agencies present these onerous provisions with an ultimatum: sign the contract or lose the job.

The AIA|WA is fighting to ensure that architects are only responsible for their insurable risks resulting from acts of negligence or errors and omissions. We know that without insurance to protect architects, their businesses and even their homes could be put at risk by a single lawsuit. The public agencies’ lawyers and lobbyists do not care. But, we want a law that is fair and equitable to all parties.

After meeting with many state and local agencies since the last legislative session, the AIA|WA drafted technical changes to address the concerns that they raised. We are hopeful that they bill will move forward this year. Even so, it will be a difficult road as some local government agencies remain steadfastly opposed to giving architects and engineers equitable rights in contracts.

You can watch a recording of the hearing on www.TVW.org. Enter 1559 in the search engine and select today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.

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