On April 24, 2013, Governor Scott signed into law Senate Bill 286 that redefined the term “Design Professional” in Section 558..002, Florida Statutes, to add geologists to the definition along with architects, interior designers, landscape architects, engineers, and surveyors. Moreover, and more importantly, the Bill created Section 558.0035 that specifies conditions under which a design professional employed by a business entity may not be held individually liable for damages resulting from negligence occurring within the course and scope of a professional services contract.
This represents a substantial change in Florida law and could limit, so long as the conditions in the statute are complied with, a design professional’s individual liability for work performed. Section 558.0035 sets forth not only specific contractual language that must be included in any contract between the design professional’s business entity and any potential claimant, but also specifies contractual language that must be excluded from any such contract. Further, the statute sets forth other preconditions for limiting a design professional’s individual liability, such as various insurance requirements.
Finally, Section 558.0035 contains certain exemptions, such as any damages must be solely economic in nature and the protections of the statute do not extend to personal injuries or property not subject to the contract. Further, as with any new law, Section 558.0035 will in all likelihood be subject to judicial interpretation and possible further limitation.
The new law takes effect on July 1, 2013 and any individual design professional and entity doing business in the State of Florida should consider insuring that all future contracts dealing in any manner with the State of Florida are in compliance with the new law in order to reap the benefits and limitations on liability provided by the law.