Construction Law: The Limits of Anti-Indemnity in Louisiana

Louisiana’s anti-indemnity statute applicable to construction contracts, R.S. 9:2780.1, became law in 2011. The statute renders unenforceable any provision in, or collateral to, a construction contract that purports to indemnify or hold harmless a person from liability for its own negligence, or has the effect of doing so. Since the law’s passage, few court decisions have interpreted its seemingly broad language and many questions remain as to the law’s full impact.

The obvious intent of the anti-indemnity law is to avoid shifting liability away from a party at fault to another person. To this end, the language in the statute nullifies any agreement that has “the effect of holding the person at fault harmless.” But what about “limit of liability” provisions? Arguably, such provisions have the effect of holding harmless the party at fault. Does a limit of liability provision, otherwise valid and enforceable under Louisiana law, run afoul of the anti-indemnity statute? After all, those parties with superior bargaining power in construction contracts will seek to insulate themselves from liability to the fullest extent allowed by law, and will look for alternatives to the indemnity provisions that now expressly violate public policy.

One court recently held that R.S. 9:2780.1 does not prohibit a limit of liability provision in a construction contract. In Patriot Contracting, LLC v. Star Insurance Company, (E.D. La. 3/01/2018), the construction contract contained a provision that excluded liability of the architect for good faith decisions made during contract administration. The plaintiff/contractor alleged that the architect was negligent in its contract administration duties and caused it to suffer economic loss. The court dismissed the claim, rejecting the contractor’s argument that the provision violated the anti-indemnity law.

The Patriot court explained that the statute prohibits an indemnity agreement, i.e., where one party agrees to reimburse a second party for damages for which the second party becomes liable to a third party. However, the anti-indemnity law did not impact the provision that excluded the contractor’s right to recover from the architect. Thus, at at least according to one court, parties in construction contracts are still free to include limit of liability provisions.

 

Mary Anne Wolf is an engineer/attorney with a construction background who represents design professionals, contractors, and others in construction litigation. She also gives seminars on the subject. She enjoys travel, yoga, and encouraging her husband in his gardening and cooking endeavors.