Please don't misinterpreted my comments or read more into them than I
intended. I checked my response to the engineer and did not find anywhere in
my comments where I stated that the "engineer is responsible for the
completed structure" or where I implied that he is responsible for any more
than he designed. I did imply that Architects share similar responsibilities
as engineers when the services of either (or both) are required by the local
jurisdiction. I also stated that the EOR has the responsibility to insure
compliance with his design drawings and this appears to be where your
The Kansas City Hyatt walkway failure, in the early 1980's, is one of most
prolific of the many examples where the Engineers were responsible for
failures that occurred from a design changes made without their knowledge.
As I recall the arguments, the Missouri Attorney General who filed charges
against the engineers argued that the omission of on-site visits from the
contracts and failure to identify field changes to the design that caused
the failure did not relinquish the engineer of responsibility for that
failure. There are other cases reported where the expectation of the jury
was significantly higher than the minimum standard established in the code.
My comments were never intended to provide more than an opinion. It is not
unreasonable to expect an engineer to be free from responsibility when
changes are made without his or her knowledge, however most of these
decisions are litigated when damage or injury occurs. The Missouri Attorney
General in the Court case against the two engineers on the Hyatt project did
not agree and found the engineers in gross negligence.
Beyond this, most engineers in California will agree that Observation and
any additional requirements that assure a closer working relationship with
the contractor and Engineer of Record, is, at the least, good insurance and
has helped to improve the quality problems associated with wood framed
Mark, the rest of your argument makes little sense to me. You make the
following factual statements:
1) "..in many parts of the country the EOR visits the site periodically if
2) "..is not in any position to guarantee that the construction documents
were in all cases followed.."
3) "..not all jurisdictions do so (even in California)..." [require
4) "..the statement clearly does not make him responsible for deviations
that he was not aware of.."
Finally you state: "I believe such misinformed statements" [as I wrote in my
reply to the thread EOR] " create faulty expectations which un-necessarily
increases our liability exposure."
I disagree with your statement. Statements don't increase liability
exposure - neglect does. In my opinion, what "increases our liability
exposure" are all the points you mentioned in numbers one through four
above. It is also my opinion that an engineer is inherently wrong to assume
that a project will start construction and conclude without so much as a
question or detail change. I have yet to observe a job where the contractor
has done a perfect job - or even a job where my work has been perfect.
Engineers must, in my opinion, assume the burden of professional
responsibility to make sure that the structural integrity of his or her
design is not compromised so as to be potentially harmful to the occupants.
Expecting to comply with a local jurisdiction that requires less from the
engineer is, again in my opinion, less responsible rather than more.
While I agree that an engineer "should not" be held responsible for
"deviations he was not aware of", the courts have not agreed in all cases
and this is why there is so much litigation. When it comes down to a jury of
laypersons, the decision generally rests with the jury's expectation of how
much responsibility the engineer should have assumed from the completion of
the design to through the construction of the project. Few engineers that I
know would walk away from a project, knowing that it was under construction,
and simply let the builder and building inspector loose without visiting the
site or inspecting for compliance to his design intentions. I also do not
know of a jurisdiction in California's Zone 3 and 4 region that does not
require Structural Observation since the Northridge Earthquake.
Finally, the answer is "Yes" I have read Chapter 17.
Dennis S. Wish, PE
From: Mark Gilligan [mailto:MarkKGilligan(--nospam--at)compuserve.com]
Sent: Friday, January 19, 2001 11:24 PM
Subject: RE: EOR
Dennis stated that the EOR
>.... is responsible for insuring that the
structural design is followed to the letter of the design drawings. In
past failures have proven in court that if the engineer was not aware of
changes that were made, he (or she) is still responsible.<
I believe this interpretation is in error. This interpretation states that
the engineer is responsible for the completed structure. This is a far
higher standard than is normally required of a professional engineer.
The EOR is responsible for performing his duties in accordance with the
normal standard of care of other engineers in the area where the project is
located. The reality is that, in many parts of the country the EOR visits
the site periodically if at all, and is not in any position to guarantee
that the construction documents were in all cases followed. While some
jurisdictions may require the EOR to observe construction and to sign a
statement that to the best of his knowledge the project was constructed in
accordance with the design documents 1) not all jurisdictions do so (even
in California), and 2) the statement clearly does not make him responsible
for deviations that he was not aware of. Read Chapter 17 of the UBC.
In addition I believe that you will find that no insurance carrier will
insure a professional engineer for such liability. How can you hold
somebody responsible for the acts of others?
I believe such misinformed statements create faulty expectations which
un-necessarily increases our liability exposure.