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Re: Engineer's duty to public safety?

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I think you can only have an opionon based on what you have seen and
your expertise.  If you have seen the property since you did the work 2
1/2 years ago, and the condition has deteriorated, I think it is the
prudent thing to notify the owners again.  You should send them a letter
and if there is concenrn of "the letter was never received" I'd
recommend sending a registered copy.  If you haven't been to the
property in a few years, and you thought they should have moved out
then, I trust that you notified them in writing.  If you haven't been
there since, you have nothing to base an updated opinion on and it is
possible that the problems have been mitigated without you being

Beyond notification to the owner, (your client) I think you are getting
into legal issues that attorneys would love to argue.  I'm not an
authority in the legalities of it, but I would think that if you notify
the bldg dept, and they follow up by red tagging the building, and the
owner chooses to find another "expert" who feels it did not need to be
red tagged, you may be opening yourself up for problems. ie: forced
displacement, emotional strees, and the like.  Where if you just notify
the owners, and they make the choice to stay or go, it is their
responsibility. Now if you feel that all other engineers would support
your opinion, then you can notify the bldg department.  If the city has
adopted standards such as the "Abatement of dangerous and hazardous
Structures" or the like, you can notify the bldg department based on the
criteria spelled out and adopted the city.  But I'm a firm believer in
having something to base my opinion on other than just experience and
engineering practice.

This doesn't address the potential impact on neighboring properties.  If
the house fails and slides down the hill, without the land going too,
would the house have an impact on the neighbors?  If so, I think you
should notify the affected properties, If the slope fails, I would think
that failure would be out of your expertise unless you are also a geo
type... and it would be the geologist's responsiblilty.

Steve Privett