Duty to Defend bill clears first hurdle

SEAOC appreciates the 60-plus members who sent in letters of support last month for SB 885 (Wolk), the ACEC-sponsored bill to prohibit duty-to-defend clauses in public and private contracts. 

In addition, SEAOC thanks SEAOCC members Ken Luttrell, Ryan Kersting, Steve Pelham, SEAONC members Rick Bauman, Mark Gilligan, Kevin Moore, and SEAOSC member Larry Kaprelian, who alongside dozens of design professional colleagues testified in support of SB 885 at a hearing the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3 at the State Capitol. 

The roomful of supporters carried the day, as the Senators on the committee voted unanimously to move the bill onward with a vote of 6-0.  The committee spent an hour discussing and hearing testimony, including strong opposition from cities, counties, special districts, utilities, contractors and the trades.   SB 885 now moves out to the Senate Floor, where it will be taken up by all 40 Senators likely by the end of the month. 

SB 885 would close a loophole in current contracting which, owing to a pair of unfortunate court decisions, leaves engineers and other design professionals on the hook for other parties' defense costs, regardless of the design professional's degree of fault.  Compounding matters, this contract risk is uninsurable, and puts firms and individuals at risk of professional and personal bankruptcy. Led by chair Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the committee ultimately seemed convinced that the problem is legitimate, even if the exact language of the bill may need more work. 

SEAOC will issue a Legislative Alert during the week of May 16 for all SEAOC members to call and write their Senators, all of whom will be voting when the bill hits the Floor.  In addition, SEAOC ED Don Schinske will be joining lobbyists for the other design professional organizations on legislative visits leading up to the Floor hearing.    SEAOC appreciates your continuing help and participation. 

Link to current version of SB 885

Link to Senate Judiciary analysis and Senate Floor analysis

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