SENATE, No. 2184
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
INTRODUCED JUNE 12, 1997
By Senators MATHEUSSEN and CIESLA
An Act concerning the liability of professional engineers for injuries on construction sites and amending P.L.1967, c.59.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 1 of P.L.1967, c.59 (C.2A:14-1.1) is amended to read as follows:
1. [No] a. Except as provided in subsection b. of this section, no action, whether in contract, in tort, or otherwise, to recover damages for any deficiency in the design, planning, supervision or construction of an improvement to real property, or for any injury to property, real or personal, or for an injury to the person, or for bodily injury or wrongful death, arising out of the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property, nor any action for contribution or indemnity for damages sustained on account of such injury, shall be brought against any person performing or furnishing the design, planning, supervision of construction or construction of such improvement to real property, more than 10 years after the performance or furnishing of such services and construction. This limitation shall not apply to any person in actual possession and control as owner, tenant, or otherwise, of the improvement at the time the defective and unsafe condition of such improvement constitutes the proximate cause of the injury or damage for which the action is brought.
b. No professional engineer who is retained to perform only professional services on a construction project, nor any employee of a professional engineer who is assisting or representing the professional engineer in the performance of professional services on the site of the construction project, shall be liable for any injury on the construction project for which compensation is recoverable under R.S.34:15-7 et seq., unless responsibility for safety practices is specifically assumed by contract. The immunity provided by this subsection shall not apply to willful misconduct or gross negligence in the preparation of design plans or specifications.
(cf: P.L.1967, c. 59, s. 1)
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
In Carvalho v. Toll Bros. and Developers, 143 N.J. 565 (1996), the New Jersey Supreme Court held that a professional engineer may be liable for a worker's death caused by unsafe worksite conditions, despite the fact that the contractor, not the engineer, was contractually responsible for safety conditions at the site. As a result, professional engineers are often sued for workplace injuries even though they are not contractually responsible for workplace safety. The costs of these lawsuits inevitably drive up engineering costs.
This bill would not interfere with the collection of worker's compensation benefits when the worker is entitled to those benefits. However, it would shield professional engineers from liability for workers' personal injury suits, if: (1) the engineer did not assume contractual responsibility for safety conditions at the worksite; or (2) the engineer is not grossly negligent in the preparation of design plans or specifications.
Provides immunity from liability to professional engineers in certain circumstances.