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RE: UBC Commentary

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Robert says,
>Except for the courts, the building official, not ICBO, is the final 
>interpreter of the building code and ICBO does not want to be drawn into the 
>middle of a dispute between the building official and some applicant for a 
>permit.  This is especially true, if their opinion was to be used against the 
>building official.  Of course, if the applicant believes that ICBO would
>support his or her position, then asking the building official to seek ICBO's 
>interpretation would be appropriate.

and Bill asks,
>But, if there was less "scatter" on the interpretations, wouldn't that mean
>there would be fewer court cases?

As I see it, court cases often advance on the strength of what plaintiff's
engineer experts say the code means. I have yet to see where those experts
care what the building official's interpretation of the code is. The experts
assert their own versions, and the versions I see have been biased and
skewed as a minimum, or outlandish and preposterous more typically,
especially as to how the code provisions they cite apply to the matters at

"The Court" rarely has to rule on which code provisions apply, or on what
they mean in the context at hand, because it is so expensive to go to trial
(and so uncertain of outcome) that cases settle before trial on the strength
of the posturing and bluffing. How the code "really" applies does not get
tested and ruled on authoritatively.

For P.E. Board disciplinary cases, non-engineer staff relies on hired PE
"technical experts" who likely as not are rendering opinions in violation of
the Board's own rule 415, that is, outside their own personal area of
expertise and competency. They are not trained in the legal meanings of the
statutory offenses, nor do they care. Usually only one outside expert is
obtained, and in my experience in residential construction cases, that
person misinterprets and mistakenly applies building code, sometimes
laughably. The defendant engineer is smart to retain a good attorney and
several genuine experts, one of whom should be the building official in
charge of the project in question. The Administrative Law Judge hearing
officers appear to find code interpretations from such officials credible
and important. 

Unfortunately, the cost of mounting a sound defense of one's license is
heavy, and if one doesn't win, the Board's costs are likely to be added to
the hit. On the other hand, if an accused engineer plea bargains
("stipulates") to having committed the supposed offense, the Board's costs
are less, and it often waives its claim for costs. --Or so it told the Joint
Legislative Sunset Review Committee on page 58 of its 1999 report to them.
Board members themselves are no help in stopping an accusation for lack of
merit, since they are supposed to know nothing about it until after the
hearing officer has conducted the "trial" and has recommended an outcome. If
staff wants your license, they'll cost you, regardless of merits. 

In both types of case, it may well be cheaper to lose out of court than win
after going to court.

There is no recourse I know of against engineer experts in legal proceedings
who testify falsely, whether mistakenly, negligently, or with malice. A
series of Appelate Court interpretations of Civil Code sec 47 (b) address
the privilege held by such witnesses.

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE   Sacramento CA