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 -
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:>)