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Re: Limit of Liability

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Dennis S. Wish PE wrote:
> 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
More fodder for the arguement that we should take action thru
several venues to increase our fees.

Something else that may/may not be cool...
If a law firm or a few law firms participated in this forum,
had a web page, answered "simple" questions for free, had a
regular newsletter specific to our industry, etc. and, oh yeah,
offered services to us at reasonable costs, I believe they would
have a decent target market.  All over the 'net.

By the way, if your billings are under $100k, I agree that ASCE
has an affordable program. Not the best service, etc. but at
least you're not bare. With the no. of attys around (like the
condo group you mentioned), it doesn't mean you're a good
engineer if you haven't been sued, just lucky. I've been covered
for five years now and I have some comfort that I have someone
on MY side when these kind of issues come. It's sort of like the
E/Q arguement, it's not "if there's an E/Q" it's "when there's an