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Re: Ethics 101

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IMHO (O.K., not so H), you should immediately:
1. File a lien if your contract was directly with the owner
2. File a small courts claim if the amount you are owed is less than the
allowable limits of small claims ($5K, I think).
3. "Voluntarily" (w/o charge) provide additional site visits, measuring
nail spacing, nail head size, actual shear wall length vs. length shown on
the plans. In other words, become the contractor's worst nightmare.
4. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
5. Stop worrying and go on to the next project.

Bill Allen

> From: Dennis S. Wish PE <wish(--nospam--at)>
> To: 'SEAOC Listservice' <seaoc(--nospam--at)>
> Subject: RE: Ethics 101
> Date: Sunday, August 24, 1997 7:17 PM
> These were great ethic's questions. There are a couple of 
> straight forward answers.
> Currently, I have clients holding up payments to me because I 
> uncovered problems in construction during structural observation 
> and reported (as indicated in the code) to the building 
> official. The remedial measures were rather extensive and the 
> contractor, working directly for the building owner, convinced 
> the owner in layman's terms that I was being too picky and that 
> the corrections were not necessary. He also convinced the 
> architect that I was just trying to create a market to gain more 
> fee's from the project.
> Whenever I receive a call now to inspect a structural problem, I 
> clearly indicated to the potential client that the inspection 
> will lead to a report which is to be issued to the local 
> building official. I also make it clear that if there is a 
> problem, it will be reported rather than concealed. If he does 
> not like this, he can phone another engineer.
> Admittedly, I have lost business because of this as well as 
> obtaining a reputation for being overly conservative. I have 
> also gained a stronger relationship with my clients that 
> appreciate the honesty and have more faith in the value of my 
> designs for them.
> We are in a damned if you do and damned if you don't profession. 
> Our reports, unless supported by mathematical evidence, is a 
> professional opinion which can be disastrous to our business if 
> we don't make a publicly popular choice. Personally, I'd rather 
> be out of this business than attending funerals for those that 
> may have been saved by my report.
> Dennis Wish PE
> BTW, we all make mistakes. We are just so afraid of litigation 
> that most of us are not willing to own up to the mistake. 
> Recently, I had designed a garage header for a custom home. 
> After construction the architect called me in stating that the 
> header was failing. I checked my calculations and called the 
> architect back to assure him that the beam was designed 
> correctly. I asked him to have the contractor verify the grade 
> of lumber, look for defects and to verify if there was a crown 
> in the beam that may have been placed downward. I informed him 
> that for a sixteen foot span, the allowable deflection was 
> around L/240 or 0.8" for live + dead load. Being in the desert 
> on a nice day, the deadload deflection calculated at less than 
> 1/2".
> At this point the architect said that the noticed deflection was 
> closer to 1/2" and that was unacceptable to the owner. The wall 
> was a double wall design and the contractor installed another 
> beam adjacent to the original one.
> Now the owner is refusing to pay part of my fee for the 
> deflection problem which was designed within code allowable 
> limits. Who is going to win this one?
> Dennis