Contractors welcome liability task force
A construction group that helped stir a
ruckus about contractors’ liability insurance
in Nevada says it’s happy to see the creation
of a state task force on the issue.
A lawyer who’s successfully sued homebuilders
contends, however, that the building
industry needs to clean up its act to get
insurance premiums under control.
Alice Molasky-Arman, the state insurance
commissioner, responded to a request
by Gov. Kenny Guinn to create the group
to study the causes of problems with construction
The task force, which began meeting
last week, will look at reasons that litigation
over construction defects is up sharply
and also will study reasons that contractors
find liability insurance is more expensive
if it’s available at all.
The insurance commissioner’s move
drew applause from Rick DeMar, head of
the Carson City-based Builders Association
of Western Nevada.
“It’s a good sign that the commissioner
did something other than offer a 1-800
line,” DeMar said.
DeMar noted the state task force members
include Steve Hill, who represents the
Coalition for Fairness in Construction, a
statewide group that has sounded the alarm
about liability insurance. The coalition
includes contractors, insurers, lenders and
representatives of the real estate industry.
“Our goal is to restore common sense
and reason to our wildly litigious environment,”
Hill said. “This problem threatens
the livelihoods of thousands of Nevadans
employed in the construction industry, and
pushes the cost of new homes out of reach
of working families across the state.”
A trial attorney who recently won a $12
million construction-defect case on behalf
of a southern Nevada condominium association
said the construction industry
brought problems on itself.
“They’re not willing to sacrifice profits
for quality,” said attorney Scott Canepa.
He said liability insurance premiums
have risen across the economy in recent
months, and he strongly disagreed with construction
industry claims that constructiondefect
lawsuits have been frivolous.
He said no construction-defect case in
the state has been rejected by a judge as frivolous,
and he said contractors and their
insurers have won only one case that was
taken to a jury.
Other members of the task force
* Joyce Smith, whose Carson City electrical
company has about two decades
experience in construction.
* Matthew Sharp of the Nevada Trial
* Kay Lockhart, representing the
Nevada Independent Insurance
* Mark Sektnan, representing the
American Insurance Association.
* Glen Sheard, a member of the
Commissioner’s Property Casualty
Advisory Committee, who represents
the general public on the task force.
Molasky-Arman said she expects the
task force will present long-term solutions
to the liability insurance problems.
After a July hearing on the issue drew
some 800 people from the construction
industry, the insurance commissioner established
a clearing house for liability insurance
and launched a market assistance program.
Members of the Coalition for Fairness in
Construction and others in the construction
industry have said they’ll seek legislative
action including better definition of the
liability of contractors as a long-term
solution to the problem.
The Builders Association of Western
Nevada is studying the possibility of creating
its own liability insurance program to meet
the needs of its members.
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