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Re: Code created Malpractice opportunity

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I won't answer as to who signed the Certificate of Merit since he was an 
engineer who I respected tremendously and have become disapointed in. I can 
say that I have been asked to do expert witness work which has never been 
litigated - always either settled out of court or dropped based upon my 
recommendations. The problem is that professional expert witnesses rely upon 
continued work from attorneys and therefore can't help but become biased to 
whomever pays the bills. 
I know that there are many who don't agree and there are witnesses who claim 
that they must disclose everything they know or suspect because they would 
either become liable if a fact is missed or will not be called upon to 
provide these services for the same attorney's. 

In my case, I was an employee of the company. I was not specifically named in 
the suit - probably because I do not carry my own coverage and there was 
little for them to collect. Still, I was asked by the attorney for the 
company I worked for to review the oppositions deposition and in the end I 
was paid for my services. 

The expert witness drew from facts that were not available at the time the 
design was completed. He based his conclusions on revisions to the original 
methodology that occured after the code was adopted. The code was the City of 
Los Angeles RGA 1-91. At the time we designed the retrofit on the building, 
the RGA methodology was not adopted and was only approved for use on a per 
project bases which required approval by the building official. At the time, 
the methodology was being debated in the Hazardous Building committee of 
SEAOSC which this expert witness was a prominent member. He believed that any 
engineer who attempted to do this work should have attended the meetings and 
kept on top of every discussion that was being debated on the issues. I 
happened to be active on the committee at the same time, but of the 20 or so 
engineers that attended these meetings there were hundreds that worked purely 
from the drafts and interpreted the criteria as the documentation stated - 
sometimes incorrectly. 
My point is that you can't hang an engineer on suppositions or on criteria 
that has not been approved by the community and published. This did not occur 
until two to four years after this building was designed.
Our arguments were valid, the other engineer used the final published code 
which changed slightly to try and bury us.  I believe that this was 
unethical. He produced reports and documentation to support his case which 
had not been available or even published at the time the work was done. The 
information in these reports were not even being discussed at the time the 
work was done and did not come into play until the RGA had been published the 
committee was working on the UCBC.

Sorry to dwell. My point is that their expert witness, who I admired for many 
years, in my opinion stepped over the line. Very simply, he would have tried 
to use the excuse such as "members of seismology committee were debating the 
idea of rigid plywood diaphragms in 1991 and therefore the engineer who 
designed this building should have been aware of these discussions and 
considered them in his design". 

I've used some liberties here so it is a bit distorted. However, his actions 
were not ethical, yet would have cost thousands to rebuke in court.

As to your comments, the Insurance industry makes these types of decisions 
which hurt the name and reputation of an engineer all to often. I don't blame 
anyone who is in business to make a buck, but not at the expense of anothers 
professional reputation - which is, more often than not the case. Engineers 
are constantly being preyed upon by preditors and there is something equally 
wrong in the abuse that goes on in that industry as well. 

Who knows, once we get past these code issues maybe we can start to take on 
the litigation industry:>)

Dennis