The Limits of Contractual Indemnity

By Christopher Solop

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently made it unmistakably clear that a contractual indemnity provision cannot exceed the limitations set in Miss. Code Ann. § 31-4-41 which provides:

With respect to all public or private contracts or agreements, for construction, alteration, repair or maintenance of buildings, structures, highway bridges, viaducts, water, sewer or gas distribution systems, or other work dealing with construction, or for any moving, demolition or excavation connected therewith, every covenant, promise and/or agreement contained therein to indemnify or hold harmless another person from that person’s own negligence is void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable.


This section does not apply to construction bonds or insurance contracts or agreements.

(Emphasis added.)

In this recent decision, the Court considered an indemnity provision in a Shipyard Agreement. The Court found the statute unambiguous and concluded that to the extent that the indemnity provision sought to indemnify one party for its own negligence the provision was void. The Court further held that this defense can be preserved by setting forth the defense that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Miss. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

Remember to read your contract and carefully consider the language of any indemnity provision when you sign the contract and again if you become involved in litigation. Depending upon the particular circumstances, you might even consider purchasing additional insurance coverage of your own for adequate protection.