From: vicpeng [mailto:vicpeng(--nospam--at)vtcg.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 01, 2000 10:34 AM
Subject: Re: Seismology Committee Web page - Rigid/Flexible Part 1
Is this not a serious condition? If you do not instigate formal responses
are you not exposed to liability for professional negligence?
Thor A Tandy P.Eng, MCSCE
1. The building official and plan checker may offer as much incorrect advice
as they wish and remain without responsibility or liability. Conversely, he
can demand full compliance to a code with known errors until which time the
codes are revised. Essentially, the responsibility for full compliance lies
with the Engineer of Record regardless of what the local jurisdiction is
willing to accept.
2. I believe that insurance companies (for those who are covered) will
eventually control the level of compliance from engineers by denying
representation in cases where the engineer did not provide minimum
compliance to the letter of the code. In the mean time, engineers are
'testing the waters' and are prepared to argue in defense of not complying
based on engineering judgment. I think this is a weak defense at best.
3. Formal responses are unnecessary until the error or lack of compliance is
questioned. This may not happen until damage occurs and the courts find
themselves inundated with cases of damage that may or may not be the result
of non-compliance to the code (more likely not the result) but which becomes
justified simply by the fact that the engineer of record is obligated to
design to nothing less than the minimum requirements of the code OR provide
proof to support an alternative and acceptable methodology. By the time the
complaint occurs it is too late and the abuse may be considered the
Unacceptable Standard of Professional Practice within a given community.
Is this what we want? Do we want to leave the decision to lawyers or
insurance litigates? The code writer that creates ambiguity and fails to
correct it is, in my opinion, irresponsible and should share in any
liability that results. There is, in my opinion, an ethical and professional
responsibility to remove any cloud of confusion for the sake of the public.
Those who place the public in this position and do nothing about it are
simply acting irresponsibly but are untouchable unless there is sufficient
resources to instigate action before damage occurs.
Building officials in areas that rely upon contract plan check appear to
avoid this discussion and rely upon the advice of the contract agency who is
covered against liability claims. Where is the incentive - if anything, the
incentive offers increased revenues in cities willing to compromise on their
level of acceptance.
Dennis S. Wish, PE