It seems that the cases sited, once compiled, could be published into a
number of volumes of abuse of the law. Here is one for the books:
A woman in Northridge claimed her home was damaged beyond repair. She hired
and engineer from Orange county to represent her and he produced a report
some two hundred pages long. The report quoted various studies that
supported his argument that the home was beyond repair. Exterior walls were
supposedly racked and the home slowing sliding down the gently sloping
hillside to the east.
I was asked to represent the insurance company and everyone met at the site
at the same time. The homeowner refused to allow entry to anyone who did not
sign a disclaimer indicating that she believed there to be asbestos in the
home and after the earthquake she believe the asbestos fibers were
sufficient to be potentially carcinogenic. Her engineer wisely skipped over
To sum up the three hour investigation that I and others performed that day,
if this was a damaged home - I should only live so well.
The most difficult time I had was keeping a straight face as I read the
engineers report (since he was there representing the owner). I was
fortunate to visit other homes for the same insurance company where the
owners hired the same engineer. The conclusions were identical to the first
home and supported by the same studies.
I am not confrontational by nature and had a very difficult time taking the
engineer serious. In my opinion, this was as flagrant an abuse of the our
profession as I had seen by Insurance companies who hired engineers to prove
that severely damaged homes were only slightly damaged.
It seems that after disasters such as this, abuse runs rampant by both home
owners and insurance agencies. Many owners hoped to profit from minor damage
(and hopefully add a few hundred square feet to the repairs) while insurance
adjusters miserly withheld help from those who were displaced and had
legitimate claims. In each of these conditions, an engineer was hired to be
an objective observer who biased his reports to the side that paid him or
The engineering community needs better controls over their members to insure
ethical and responsible evaluations or testimony. It's time we cleaned up
our profession and took away the legal systems ace in the hole.
Dennis S. Wish PE
From: JGPE1(--nospam--at)aol.com [mailto:JGPE1(--nospam--at)aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 19, 2000 4:32 AM
Subject: Re: Statute of Limitations and more...............
I have two true stories regarding frivolous lawsuits and statute of
It seems to me, some attorneys encourage lawsuits. They know the suit is
frivolous however the insurance company will most likely settle. Case in
point, I know a mean old retired lady (and I'm saying it nice) who sued a
Construction Company because she claimed the blasting which occurred near
home cracked her foundation. The blasting took place for part of one day for
a residential foundation. The point is No one, Building Officials included,
were allowed to enter her property to inspect the "alleged"damages.
Depositions were taken, people's time and money were spent, and finally the
construction Company's insurance company settled for 50K. As you said, it
gave the appearance that she was right and that she won the suit and the
other party was negligent. Oh by the way, to this day No one Knows if the
cracks in her foundation really do exist.
Case two, my first employer who I had not spoken to or seen in some 15 years
contacted me approximately two years ago. He was involved in a lawsuit
(probably frivolous) and had discarded his files with respect to the
He was calling to see if I had any recollection of the project. Just habit,
would keep copies of all documents and records I had worked on over the
so I provided him with the information he needed and it saved his butt.
advantage of leaving on good terms with a past employee).
Thoughts from the other side of the Country,
John G. PE