Some contractors find themselves in trouble when a client sues them for using fill material that was contaminated. Fill material refers to substances such as subsoil and concrete debris that is used to level uneven ground. Clean fill refers to fill materials that have been certified as free from contaminants (such as asbestos-containing soil). This article discusses how new contractors can avoid the legal pitfalls of using potentially contaminated fill material.
Ask the Client to Specify the Fill Material Needed
A client may tell you to find fill material for his or her site. However, that client may not clearly state how clean that fill material should be. This creates a loophole that can result in an expensive lawsuit against you later on. Avoid this problem by requesting the client to define how clean the fill material should be. This clarification will enable you to decide where to source the fill material. For instance, if the client asks for certified fill material, you can get clean fill from suppliers who test their material before shipping it to their clients.
Conduct a Visual Inspection
Look at the material before you give a go-ahead for it to be offloaded. That visual inspection may raise red flags in case what you see appears to contradict what you expect. For instance, you may see sections of soil that are black due to a liquid that seeped into them. Such a visual clue may alert you to the possible existence of an oil spill into the fill material. Such an observation should prompt you to demand fill material that meets the standard that you had outlined.
Get Contractual Indemnity from the Supplier
You can also protect yourself from liability suits by asking the supplier of the fill material to indemnify you against any liability arising from the use of that fill material. When issues arise, the supplier will be the one to answer for them. For instance, the fill material may later be discovered to contain radioactive material. When that happens, the supplier of that material will be contractually bound to meet the cost of cleaning up that contamination.
You can save yourself the headache of negotiating your way through a potential legal minefield by collaborating with a firm that supplies clean fill material. That firm will avail clean fill that has undergone rigorous tests to ensure that the fill material meets all the requirements set by the municipal or state authorities in your area.