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(Fwd) Re: Firm Sued Over Fractures in Steel Frames in Quake.[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
- To: seaoc(--nospam--at)seaoc.org
- Subject: (Fwd) Re: Firm Sued Over Fractures in Steel Frames in Quake.
- From: "Ron Hamburger" <roh(--nospam--at)eqe.com>
- Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 14:25:18 PST
- Cc: sacsteel(--nospam--at)eerc.berkeley.edu
- Priority: normal
This responds to an Email by Frank McClure to the SEAOC list server on Januaryh 29, 1997. In the Email, Frank notes that a BILLION dollar class-action lawsuit had been filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court accusing the manufacturer of the welding materials used in the construction of the welded steel moment frame buildings that were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake of making and marketing a weld metal that poses an unreasonable risk of damage" to building owners and the public. Frank asks several questions as follows: > Will this lawsuit have a "chilling" influence on the SAC Program for the > Evaluation, Repair and Modification and Design of of Steel Moment Frames? > Will the SAC Investigators be willing to present their findings and > recommendations concerning the use of certain welding procedures in the > usual professional manner that other engineering findings and recommendations > are presented to the structural engineering profession with this >and other similar lawsuits in the background? RESPONSE Although the referenced class action suit has only recently been filed, this is not the only litigation related to steel construction that has been in progress since the inception of the FEMA/SAC program. There has been litigation in process against the electrode manufacturer for more than a year, relating to a specific building. Similarly, there has been litigation on-going against a steel mill related to fabrication induced fractures. Other litigation has been initiated against individual engineers, fabricators, erectors, etc. by individual owners of damaged buildings. Since many of the researchers and consultants participating in the SAC project are among the most knoweldgeable people in the field, their services are naturally sought by attorneys on both sides of such litigation, to provide expert opinion. Also, since many industry advisors to SAC are also litigants in the various actions, it is unavoidable that many participants in the SAC project are on different sides of litigation. While this has unavoidably lead to some less than completely comfortable situations in SAC sponsored meetings and workshops, I do not believe it has inhibited the investigation or reporting of pertinent findings of research. In fact, it could be argued that it has actually improved the research process somewhat, in that to a certain extent, some research performed by SAC investigators, has been funded by private litigants. This research has extended to fractographic analysis of damaged buildings, toughness tests on weld and base metal materials, and even some full scale connection assembly testing. Reports from this research has been consistently and objectively reported by SAC and included in our various guideline and advisory documents. The objectivity of the findings reported by SAC is assured through the review of an independent Project Oversight Committee, chaired by Dr. William Hall of the Univ. of Ilinois and containing respected senior personnel from the research, industry, professional, and regulatory communities. > Should the SAC Investigators excuse themselves from continuing to serve on > the SAC Project if they take commissions to be expert witnesses for either > side in the above Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro and other similar lawsuits > concerning the performance of welded steel moments frame buildings in the > 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes because of a possible > conflict of interest? RESPONSE The SAC Project Management Committee, consisting of the Program Manager (S. Mahin) and Project Directors (J. Malley, R. Hamburger) has considered this question in the past. It was agreed that the memebers of the Project Management Committee, having responsibility to make decisions with regard to expenditure of research funds, as well as to manage and direct the focus of the overall project and provide for the publication of objective information would not participate in any litigation related to welded moment frame performance. In fact, each of the members of the Committee were independently asked to participate in the litigation relating to the welding electrodes and declined. It was also decided not to prohibit our various consultants and investigators to participate on such projects. The performance of litigation related services is a siginficant part of some consultant's and investigaor's livelihood and had such a restriction been imposed, we were concerned that it would preclude the particiaption of some very valuable team members. Also, such a policy would be contrary to typical practice in the research community. For example, NSF never limits their researcher's participation in private projects, related o their research. > Will these SAC Investigators have an unfair advantage as expert witnesses > with their advanced and "insider" knowledge and information concerning the > seismic performance of the welded steel frame buildings and the results of > the latest, yet unpublished research concerning the testing and other > investigations of welded steel frame buildings which is not readily available > to other engineers? RESPONSE Clearly, SAC Investigators will have more knowledge then many other engineers with regard to this problem, due to their intense concentration in this area of work. However, SAC dissemination of pertinent information to the professional community is one of SAC's highest priorities. All of the reports on resesarch funded by SAC are available for the cost of reproduction and handling. Further, SAC is commited to publication of Advisories, which will be distributed gratis by FEMA to all who are interested in them. One such advisory is currently being printed by FEMA and should be in SEAOC members hands within a few weeks. Interestingly, one of the most common comments that SAC has recieved from the profession with regards to our publications is that - "it is a lot of good information - but too much to read - can you summarize it in a few pages?" Obviously, it will never be possible to provide engineers with such an attitude, with an equivalent level of comprehenesion of the many complex issues regarding moment frame performance, as the posessed by the various SAC researchers. This is not unfair, it is reality. > It would appear that structural engineers should know more about > welding and what welding materials to specify than to just referencing the > usual national standards in their specifications to protect themselves from > potential professional liability lawsuits? RESPONSE The SAC Guidelines (FEMA-267), published in August, 1995, provide a significant amount of information on how engineers should specify welding for their projects. These still represent the best recommendations of the research and code development community with regard to this issue. Ronald O. Hamburger, SE Regional Manager EQE International, Inc. San Francisco, California
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