On the Road with USGlass

Liability Creep

Paul Gary spoke about contract glazing and liability issues at the BEC Conference in Las Vegas in February.

I admit it right up front: liability creep is my own shorthand for a phenomenon that afflicts the glass industry with frequency like no other. It’s expensive, ever-expanding and dangerous. Liability creep is downright creepy. Let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve reported on a never-ending series of lawsuits and settlements that slowly but consistently expanded the liability of contract glaziers into areas you would never expect. Contract glaziers work for general contractors (GCs). And years ago, when agreements were signed they detailed what the contract glazier would do and what the general contractor would pay.

The move to more detailed performance specifications has led to increased liability for the contract glazier as well. These glazing companies must be extremely diligent in knowing exactly what they are agreeing to provide in a job—or they could be held liable when a system does not meet specification, even though they had no role the conditions that led to failure.

Performance specs, safety, BIM requirements, warranties, country of origin requirements, minority and veteran participation are just of few of the areas in which we have seen liability creep in to erode margins and profit.

At the BEC Conference in Las Vegas in February, attorneys Paul Gary and Matthew Johnson made a presentation about the newest area to creep—energy compliance. “You must be vigilant about how your agreements are written with regard to the energy performance of the project and your role in compliance,” said Gary. “You must clarify that role with the general.”

Gary and Johnson both advised glazing contractors to focus on these requirements or, they warned, “you will be part of furnishing a solution to a problem you weren’t part of creating.”

But then again, that is what liability creep is all about.