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Pennsylvania HVAC Contractors Are Immune – Except When They Are Not

5/3/2012 | Construction Blog

It seems legislative bodies are taking notice.

With the increase of claims regarding mold and mold remediation, state legislatures are starting to look at the issue more closely. While a policy debate about whether state governments should wade into these waters is perfectly fair, many legislatures are doing it nonetheless. Pennsylvania is no exception.

Senate Bill 647 has been introduced by Senators Boscola, Fontana, Waugh, and Eichelberger in the Pennsylvania legislature. The text of the proposed law is short and aims to amend Title 42 to include language that immunizes all contractors installing HVAC systems in a structure from liability for personal injuries, property damage, or “other damages, losses, or claims” related to mold unless agreed otherwise in writing. The bill then goes on to make a curious exception.

The only stated exception in the bill, which appears in section (b), makes HVAC contractors liable for personal injury or property damage if the mold results from poor workmanship by that contractor. This begs some questions, the most obvious of which is the necessity of such a statute as written.

The law already requires proof of causation before a party can be held liable for another’s damages. In the context of an HVAC contractor, this means that a customer would have to prove that the HVAC contractor’s work was defective and that the proven defect caused the mold and resulting problems. This statute, as written, does nothing more than codify the law as it currently exists.

The bill raises some other questions.

  1.  Why is the statute only directed at HVAC contractors?
  2.  What type of writing is sufficient to waive the immunity and what should it say? Would a clause in the contract be required, or is something less formal acceptable?
  3.  The bill uses the word “contractors”, but it is not a defined term. Who qualifies as a HVAC contractor? What counts as installation: new construction, replacement of a system, maintenance or work on part of a system?

In many ways, this legislation has the potential to create more problems and litigation than it eliminates.

The bill is currently stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee and seems to have stalled there. It seems a safe bet that it will be revised before coming out of committee and perhaps further once it is on the floor. Only time will tell though. We will keep you posted.