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Re: Definition of Unstable

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I suggest that reference be made to the ASCE Standards 11-99 and 30-00 both establishes guidelines for condition assessments and both specifies that conclusions and recommendations do not form part of the standards but are left to professional judgement. Having established that the surveys were done to established standards and items for IMMEDIATE action identified, one can then look at the allegations. It has to be emphasized that it is the failure to carry out the immediate (urgent) work in the report that gave rise the situations described in the second and third allegations. Situations that were not existing at the time of the assessment and would not have arisen if the recommendations were followed. Life-safety issues and imminent collapse were not issues one year earlier. Several examples can be mentioned to illustrate that.
Also, although I'm only an engineer and not a lawyer, I think that it can be argued that the landlord's inaction represents a serious deviation from the engineer's recommendations and that the blame for this unilateral (in)action cannot now be shared.
Carlyle Glean
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2004 2:57 PM
Subject: Definition of Unstable

Once again, I find myself employed as an expert witness in the defense of a fellow structural engineer. 
A concrete tiltwall industrial building was constructed in 1976 and expanded in 1991.  Due primarily to differential heaving of expansive clay soils, the building suffered substantial distress over a period of many years.  By 1999, the distress had progressed to a point where the building owner brought in three separate structural engineers to observe the condition of the building.  All three engineers independently concluded that they observed significant structural problems and recommended further testing, repair and monitoring programs.  The owner apparently ignored these recommendations, and instead proceeded to sell the building to the tenant in 2000.  Less than a year later, the roof collapsed.  An insurance company subsequently paid a claim well in excess of $2 million, and is now subrogating against (suing) all three engineers.  The allegations principally are that the engineers:  (1) failed to include warnings about the immediate need for repairs, (2) failed to include warnings about life-safety issues, and (3) failed to report that collapse was imminent. 
Key Question:
The engineer that I am defending wrote a two-page report summarizing the observed damage and recommending specific repairs, tests, and monitoring.  Prior to a list of nine items, one key sentence reads:  "Please find listed below items that need to be completed immediately and prior to any other investigations."  In my opinion, this sentence directly refutes the first allegation.  Another key sentence reads:  "It is my opinion that the building is relatively unstable at this time with differential floor slab and wall panels movements noted."  In my opinion, this sentence indirectly refutes the third allegation because I consider an unstable building to be a building where the risk of potential collapse is imminent.  What I need to support this opinion is a good written definition of "unstable".  Preferably, I would like to be able to refer to a well-written paragraph in a widely recognized text or other reference.  Any suggestions?  
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas