Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

Re: Legal and liability - using my stamp

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
----- Original Message -----
 Monday, June 07, 2004 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: Legal and liability - using my stamp

Seems to me that the one professional asset you can't work without is
professional registration, which is easier to yank or suspend for
mis-conduct than a dog licence. And there's very little protection for
that. Screw up and you're out of business with a board-confirmed
reputation for chicanery. I know there are states who won't register
applicants whose licences have been yanked elsewhere.
-That's all too true in California, especially for sole propretors, unless the PE Board staff takes any dislike to the complainant and/or the facts of the case are confusing to them. Then the matter goes under the rug. My opinion is based on six cases that I have had lots of involvement with, 1991-present. The Board's year-old definition of Negligence is a time bomb, in that, unlike for civil liability, no damage to anyone need have occurred nor plausibly will occur. Easier coercion of plea-bargain confessions from accused PE's was the clear objective, so as to make life easier for staff and more cheaply increase the notches carved on their desk legs.
I'd be real curious how many sole practitioners who go bare have ever
lost significant (compared to a damage claim) sums in a liability case.
Most of my trial experience has been that it dosnt' pay a plaintiff
attorney to go after someone with only personal assets at risk. I've had
a number of lawyers tell me that juries are reluctant to impoverish an
individual unless there's a real sense of injustice or an obvious scam.
The availability of insurance proceeds puts thing in a different light,
since juries have no compunction about finding against insurors.
-Your views dovetail perfectly with mine, and with my experience. I was invited to testify at a hearing of the Calif State Senate Judiciary Committee in Nov 1985, while president of SEA of Central Calif, specifically because of my gone bare, sole proprietor status. I told the committee my view that professional liability insurance was only useful if you deserved to lose a large judgment, and that because of an unbalanced liability claims climate, such insurance was exhorbitantly priced. I gave my view that insurance coverage was free money on a tree, ready to be poached, and that nearly all claims against insured engineers are filed for the same reason Willie Sutton gave for robbing banks-- "because it's where the money is." I said I would rely on my good engineering and the "empty pocket defense".
That defense worked in 1994 when a defendant client/homebuilder's insurance company cross-complained against me, to reduce a construction defect claim they were facing. Their atty told me I was uninsured so they didn't want very much-- a few thousand $ to be dismissed. Instead I wrote and filed an answer with the court, appeared at several motion hearings in court, and made clear I could side with the plaintiffs and make things worse for my client's insurance company. The case settled before trial, as usual, and I was dismissed. I called the atty and asked for my costs, about $275. He blew up on the phone and told me to justify them in a letter. I did, pointing out his several violations of rules of court when he cross-complained. He paid in full.   

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE
Sacramento California