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[SEAOC] Re: Quality of Engineering - Checking

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>... the reviewer for the Office of the State Architect would
>not sign off on the design because he felt it would not survive an
>earthquake. The contractor shopped around and got one, or was it two,
>engineers to certify the design. The structure was built, and it did indeed
>collapse. My question is, how often does this happen, to your knowledge? Are
>the forces so very difficult to predict? Are there any sanctions against the
>hired guns?

There are several things that could be done, depending upon the situation. If
the owner of such a structure feels that a case can be made that the
engineer(s) who certified the design should not have done so, they could sue
them for damages.  (That's what professional liability insurance is for.)  A
district attorney could bring criminal charges against them if the DA
preceives that what they did was not in the general interest of the public.
(Talking jail time here.)  And the licensing board could revoke their
license, which should put an end to that person's career. (Maybe I should
have used "may" instead of "should", but lets not debate that!) 

Of course, to do all that one needs to be able to hire lawyers, fund an
investigation, hire other experts who can withstand cross-examination, put up
with a legal/criminal-justice system is sometimes unpredictable, etc.  If
doing this is important enough to the person who was damaged, they will spend
the money.  If not, well . . .

An interesting twist may be that the owner insured his building for such a
calamity.  In that case, the insuance company was damaged, and they probably
have a lot of full time lawyers on staff that specialize in going after
malpracticing engineers if they think its worth the effort.  (There are times
I think insurance companies should "license" engineers, not government
bodies; but that's another discussion topic.)