Q: Can a contractor circumvent the law by forcing the property owner to sign a contract that tells them to.
In Nebraska, the law is that a contractor must place a fence 14 inches from any utility lines. If a contractor places a provision in the contract with the land owner that the land owner will be liable for any damage to utility lines as a result of the land owner asking for less than a 14 inch distance, does this allow the contractor to violate the law? It seems to me that this is not dissimilar to a driver speeding and when pulled over, blamed the passenger and the officer giving the passenger a citation. If this is legal, I think I'll have my passengers sign contracts from now on that they'll take the blame if I speed or commit some other driving infraction.
A: Unless the State is part of the agreement, a private agreement between parties that they won't follow the law doesn't make the law unenforceable. That being said, it is allowed in certain circumstances for parties to contract for one party to indemnify the other party for costs associated with certain violations. Whether this is allowed or not is complicated and whether only one party has the ability to control or have knowledge of the potential violation can be a factor in whether this would be enforceable or not. That being said, neither party should violate the law or go forward with the specific action if they know they are violating the law. You are just asking for further headaches down the road.
Natalie Hein agrees with this answer
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