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Re: Means and Methods

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Regarding our discussion of means and methods, here is an article from the
DPIC eNewsletter.

DPIC Newsletter:

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that an architect cannot be held
responsible for jobsite safety lacking evidence he or she had supervisory
responsibility over on-site work.

In the case, an excavation worker was killed in a trench collapse while
installing drainage for a school baseball field. The architect prepared
design specifications for the project that called for shoring of the
trenches. The specifications stated that the excavation company was to do
the shoring and that the architect had no responsibility for inspection.

A wrongful death lawsuit was brought against the school board and the
architect by the decedent's widow. (The board had not hired a general
contractor and shared responsibility with the architect for project
coordination and scheduling.) The architect filed for summary judgment
claiming there was no evidence that he was responsible for the shoring or
inspection or that he was aware that bracing or shoring was not being used.
A trial court granted the motion, but an appellate court reversed the
decision on the grounds that there were still questions as to whether the
architect was negligent regarding site supervision.

The state supreme court ruled that, based on the present record, there was
no evidence that the architect was negligent regarding site supervision. The
court said that the facts did not establish that the architect breached his
duty of care by failing to supervise the jobsite. However, the court did
support the appellate court ruling that summary judgment should be denied
and further discovery regarding the architect's responsibility was
warranted. It said that the plaintiff should have the right to conduct
discovery regarding the architect's supervisory duties on related projects
performed for the client.

This New Jersey case (Pfenninger v. Hunterdon Central Regional High School,
March 13, 2001) provides further evidence that design firms should avoid any
responsibility for jobsite safety. Evidence working in the architect's favor

* The design specification placed responsibility for the bracing and shoring
with the excavation company.

* The architect was not required to perform jobsite inspections of the

* The architect did not have stop-work authority.

* The record did not establish that the architect had knowledge that the
trenches were not braced or shored.

Visit DPIC's Loss Prevention Library at for further information
regarding jobsite safety.

Nels Roselund
Structural Engineer
South San Gabriel, CA

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