I appreciate your comments but don't really feel that secure. Here is the
I was named in a suit (and subsequently droped when it turned out that my
stamp did not appear on the permit drawing even though I was employed by the
company when the design of the project began).
The building was sold. The new owner wanted to change the occupancy of the
building from offices to warehousing. The building was an Unreinforced
Masonry structure in the heart of Los Angeles City. The company I worked for
provided the design and retrofit some 9 years prior.
The new owner hired a new engineer to upgrade the building based upon a
change of occupancy and new requirments by the building department. The new
design went well over budget and the new owners called in another engineer
with known experience in retrofit. The new "expert" believed that the
original steel frames in the first floor used for shear and cross-walls were
The building survived the Northridge earthquake and all events between
Whittier Narrows to present with little or no damage. The new owners
attorneys who were experienced in construction and engineering liability
litigation claimed that if there was one defect found, the owner has the
right to suspect that there are others. The attorney's sued for over 1.5
million dollars - which just happened to be the cost of the change of
occupancy. The cost to correct any perceived error (assuming the allegations
were correct since no analysis existed after these many years) was around
The case never went before a jury - instead, the Insurance company settled
the claim in favor of the new owners at a comprimised figure.
I don't believe that any case needs to be decided by a jury as long as there
has been one accountable error made in the original design. Personally, I
think a jury would be more understanding of these types of issues and may
have seen the intention of the new building owners described above. However,
the E&O carrier circumvented the potential trial by "cutting their losses" at
the possible expense of the original Engineer of Record.
Therefore, rational accounts such as yours are not always (or frequently I
suspect) the way the outcome occurs. I think Insurances companies are better
prepared to settle claims then litigate them.
Dennis S. Wish PE