Mississippi Code Section 31-5-41 Not Applicable to Performance Bonds

By Christopher Solop

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently decided an appeal concerning whether Miss. Code Ann. § 31-5-41 applied to a performance bond surety where the performance bond incorporates the terms and conditions of a construction contract. Miss. Code Ann. § 31-5-41 provides that all public or private construction contacts that contain a provision agreeing to "indemnify or hold harmless another person from that person’s own negligence is void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable." It also states that "[t]his section does not apply to construction bonds or insurance contracts or agreements."

In the case decided by the Court, the general contractor was sued by the owner of a building for alleged construction defects. The owner also sued the performance bond surety for breach of the performance bond and bad faith denial of its claims. The surety sought to enforce its indemnity agreement with the general contractor. However, the trial court denied the surety’s claim for indemnification finding its potential liability arouse out of its own negligence. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court simply finding the language of Miss. Code Ann. § 31-5-41 provides that it does not apply to "contraction bonds or insurance contracts or agreements." The Court went on to state that "[t]his remains true even if the performance bond incorporates the construction contract by reference."

Even though the general contractor was unable to use Miss. Code Ann. § 31-5-41 as a defense against the surety’s claim for indemnity, this statutory provision does afford the general contractor protection against broad indemnity provisions in other construction related contracts.