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Re: Engineering service

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Mr. Dinh,

Keeping in mind the issues associated with getting involved in a project
where there is already a dispute (ref. Paul's response, which I think is
exactly on point), and while I think Dan's partly right (you need to be
careful about what you agree to do and what responsibility you take, and
unless you are very comfortable with legal language you might be well
advised to talk to your attorney and/or E&O insurer), I think Dan and Chris
are over-reacting in telling you that you cannot help this guy out (although
I'm not sure I understand why you'd want to) without assuming
responsibility/liability for the entire project.  Fundamentally, there is
little difference between what you are being asked to do and any project
involving a modification or addition to a structure you did not design.

While the fear of lawyers unreasonably extending our liability has a basis
in the practical experience of our profession, it will if taken to an
extreme prohibit you from doing any work at all.  If you want to get
involved in this project, and if the fee justifies the risk (don't even
think about doing it at "normal" hourly rates), I believe you can reasonably
deal with the issue of liability.  I would suggest that you begin with a
thorough explanation of the problem (who's responsible for what) to the
client, accompanied by an offer to review/redesign the entire project for an
appropriate fee (which will he or she will almost surely decline).

Assuming your customer still wants you to try to deal with only the specific
problem areas once you've explained the issue and told him that you'll need
to take appropriate measures to limit your liability, just be sure you do
so.  You'll need a carefully written professional service agreement that
records the fact that you talked to the client about these issues and
describing exactly what you will (and won't) accept liability for.  You will
also need to include appropriate notes on all documentation you produce,
clearly indicating the assumptions upon which your work was based (e.g., a
sound basic design) and indicating what you have and have not done.  You
should insist that any design documents you produce be reviewed and approved
by the governing building official, so that they will have a chance to
comment if they think your assumptions and our exclusions of liability are
too broad (e.g., leave some aspect of the completed structure with NO
designer of record), and you should NOT agree to do anything based on any
assumption that you know or even suspect to be unreasonable or untrue (e.g.,
you can't just add twenty kips to a column load and say that you ASSUMED the
original engineer had at least that much "fat" in his design).


----- Original Message -----
From: "Tin Dinh" <tindinh(--nospam--at)>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)>
Sent: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 11:43 AM
Subject: Engineering service

> I have been requested to help a client who has been
> not pleased with the performance of his design-build
> firm and has canceled their service. The project is
> not completed and has been carried out since by
> another builder based on the approved plan made by the
> previous design-build contractor. As the project is
> going to the final phase to get the final inspection,
> the inspector found out couple discrepancies  that
> need to be addressed to the engineer/architect of
> record of the project and also their approval. My
> client has tried to reach them several times, by phone
> as well as by mail,but there has been no response.
> I like to know your comments respecting how to
> approach the case to help the client to finalize the
> project and if I give them my engineering service, do
> I assume all the engineering responsibility of the
> whole project.
> __________________________________________________
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