To: "'seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org'" <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Subject: RE: New Survey - Please participate
From: Harold Sprague <harold.sprague(--nospam--at)neenan.com>
Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 11:02:00 -0600
"If an engineer observes an unsafe structure and choose NOT to report it to
the authorities, should that engineer be prosecuted?"
There are many variables that should be discussed.
1. What is the engineer's involvement?
a. None. Casual observer.
b. The engineer is the EOR.
c. The engineer was peripherally involved. Designed elements, peer
review, inspected, provided proposal.
2. What is the nature of the prosecution?
a. Prosecution inferring criminal prosecution.
b. Subject to tort. Nothing keeps you from being sued unless you
move to the Bahamas and get a false identity. The mechanical contractor was
named in many of the initial law suits in the Hyatt walkway collapse.
c. Subject to tort action akin to an implied contract via the Code
My personal feeling is that if an engineer views a structure and is
reasonably sure that the structure is unsafe, the engineer should report it
subject to the Code of Ethics that is contained in most state licensure
A revocation or professional board disciplinary action is much more
appropriate than any kind of prosecution. Professional conduct is best
addressed by one's peers.
If a citizen views a crime and does not report it, that action is not
prosecutable. If a hospital denies treatment to a patient that institution
and the professionals that deny the treatment are liable under professional
ethics and the hospital's implied covenant with the public to provide
As professionals, we have an implied and a professional duty to the public
that should take precedence.
The Neenan Company