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Re: Limit of Liability

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Gou Perng-Fei wrote:
> 
> TO: seaoc
> 
> A law professor at the University of Maryland expressed his willingness to
> trade legal opinion for technical information through web site last
> December.  Shall we send him the "liability" questions to him to get his
> advice?
> 
>                Prof. Vincent M. Brannigan
>                University of Maryland
>                College Park MD 20742
>                Email:vb15(--nospam--at)umail.umd.edu
>                Phone: 301-405-6667
>                or 302 667-1410
> 
> Bob
>  ----------
> From: null
> To: seaoc
> Subject: Re: Limit of Liability
> Date: Sunday, January 26, 1997 1:39PM
> 
> These have been interesting comments. I am one of those engineers that do
> not have, nor can I afford to carry liability insurance. For that matter,
> only one or two other engineers in the valley (Coachella) have insurance.
> My clients are fully aware of the limits of liability and agree to it. The
> agree because they know that they will have to pay a much higher fee to
> contract with another engineer who has the insurance.
> Jeff Smiths comments about those that refrain from suing if the engineer is
> not covered is somewhat true but scarry none the less.
> I have been threatend by only one law suit. The owner was suing the testing
> lab for errors and ommisions on a URM building where the lab reported no
> reinforcing steel and even did a pachometer test to substantiate their
> report. The testing lab then name the contractor and me (engineer of
> record) into the response claiming that we should share in the liability.
> The lawyer representing the testing lab hired an engineer who substantiated
> the claim that the engineer of record was also responsible (although I
> don't see how since I had been using this labs results to base my design
> on). Unreasonable, yes but there are some engineers out there willing to
> state that the claim is not frivolous for a fee - and we are involved
> whether like it or not.
> The legal fee's that I was quoted to defend myself would have required a
> second mortgage. I was told that even my personal assets (home and cars)
> would not be exempted from my liability. To make matters worse, when I
> worked on this project I was a chapter 'S' corporation which meant that I
> could not defend myself in court but needed to hire representation.
> I was actually lucky in this matter. I let each party know that I had no
> assets worth liquidating, my home was mortagaged to the hilt with little
> equity and there was very little in the bank.
> I went to the labs attorney to argue my point, but was told that it was
> nothing personal and that this was standard proceedure to spread the
> liability and possibly I would be droped from the claim after havng my say
> in court. It's so easy to destroy someone and this attorney did not care in
> the least.
> Finally, I refused to hire an attorney, I called the lab and threatened to
> expose them to the engineering community for this. I also contact SEAOSC
> ethic's committee to get advise to see if I was without blame in this
> matter. My willingness to talk openly to all parties involved, get my
> threat across to the lab owner and essentially continue to raise hell got
> me dropped from the suit. The lab ended up paying for all damages through
> their insurance company.
> My point - even if I had liability insurance it would only have been easier
> for them to collect on a friviolous claim. I think Jeff was correct and
> they backed off because I had nothing to throw into the community pot.
> The insurance companies are getting screwed by frivolous claims and the
> insurance companies are screwing clients with ligitimate claims.
> Before I leave, I heard this week of a law firm in the Palm Springs area
> that are going from Condominium Complex to the next convincing the board of
> directors that there are construction defects in their buildings. They are
> promising a large settlement. In each case they hired engineers and
> contractors to expose the structural system of the building, documented
> each mistake and took the contractor to court.
> Money was collected - enough to make the lawyers happy, but not enough to
> repair the building - leaving a condo board that now must disclose these
> problems to all future buyers.
> 
> How's that for a new market?
> 
> Dennis Wish PE
> 
I think someone who is familiar with California practice and
it's legal and construction practices might be a better choice
but, as of yet, I have not seen any "local" volunteers or
suggestions.