Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SIMA members meet with Massachusetts law makers

'In an over 3 hour meeting, common ground was successfully met on several issues, including the growing concern for insurance costs and availability...'

By Phill Sexton
On Friday, March 21, I had the pleasure of teaming up with fellow snow and ice management and insurance professionals to begin the process of finding solutions to the burdening insurance issues that continue to evolve in the state of Massachusetts and throughout the industry. An effort led by industry leader Joseph Szczechowicz, Founder and President of Szczechowicz Landscape Services, Inc. of Rowley Massachusetts, to meet with State Senate and Legislative Representatives was met with great success. Over a dozen snow service and insurance providers teamed up with SIMA (Phill Sexton) and met with Bruce Tarr, Senate Minority Leader and Leonard Mirra, State Representative for the 2nd Essex district.

In an over 3 hour meeting, common ground was successfully met on several issues, including the growing concern for insurance costs and availability, the reasons why insurance availability is becoming more scarce including increasing slip and fall liability, and how the current legislation passed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court has unintentionally contributed to many of the issues in the state.  

You can reference the case Papadopoulos vs. Target Corp., 457 mass. 368 (2010) here: http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/457/457mass368.html. This case was referenced to overturn an over 80 years old ‘natural accumulation’ law regarding snow fall liability and introduced a law requiring Massachusetts property owners legal responsibility to shovel and treat snow and ice on property – whether it is naturally occurring or not. This set of regulation essentially leaves all snow related incidents indefensible, particularly for snow & ice management providers. 

One insurance professional attending the meeting produced a real life example of photos showing snow from the roof of a car being swept into the parking space where it was parked. This example represents one of hundreds of claims each year that beg the question “who is responsible?” The laws as they are written today in the State of Massachusetts essentially make property owners responsible for scenarios like this on a 24/7 basis. It is also common this responsibility is contractually transferred to snow service providers.  

Senator Tarr and Representative Mirra expressed that until this meeting the senate and legislative branches of the Massachusetts government were unaware of these issues. They recognize and predict the potentially dangerous results that could be caused for the private and public sectors if the insurance availability issues continue. One of several solutions they provided was to continue sharing the issues with as many other representatives as possible throughout the state. They stressed that the issues are of legitimate concern and the laws passed by the state supreme court that are causing the unintended consequences can be reversed with enough support from other state representatives.   

For more information on how you can contribute toward solving the growing insurance and liability issues in the snow & ice management profession, and how you can contact your state representative, including the state of Massachusetts, contact me at phill@sima.org or visit www.sima.org/advocacy.

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