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Re: Ceiling deflection damage caused by excessive snow - who is responsible

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Jnapd(--nospam--at) wrote:
Counties and cities am not responsible for their employees lack of knowledge..........
This county said I was negligent because " I should have known the information given to me by the plan checker was not correct"..... a day in the life for engineers.
I designed a project in the same area as Dennis project. I was given 20 psf snow load by the plan checker, as they were filing out the permit his boss walked by and picked up the calc's and noticed the 20 psf snow load and proceeded to tell client this should be 45 psf your engineer screwed up, this needs to be revised.  (this had passed two plan checks at that point) .....The boss told the client that I should have talked to the head engineer not the plan checker.     
Outcome Client refused to pay for time to revise calcs.   
 Made up some time with site visits  Bad lesson learned
This was 14 years ago. 
Joe Venuti
Johnson & Nielsen Associates
Palm Springs, CA
The only thing that is true is that the city can not be held legally liable for giving wrong information. Although if you can prove that this was the information given and the code requires you to obtain the value from the building official (or their representative) then you are not liable. However, if you have E&O insurance, liability is not an issue - the cost to litigate is. I suspect that your insurance paid the claim (with your deductible) and also added a clause that you are not admitting guilt.
This is really B.S. and one of the problems with our legal system. I am not claiming that the city is exempt from law suits for giving the wrong information - but the plan checkers bosses comments were out of line since you don't possess proof of being a mind reader. At the very least, the city should have published their snow load requirements that give both the snow load and the additional load to be applied to roof overhangs.
If it were litigated in front of a jury, I suspect that you might have been exonerated of any liability because you acted upon the information given to you by the representative of the building official - but then again if this were a perfect world there would be a Walgreens on every corner :-)


Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
Structural Engineering Consultant


760.564.0884 (office - fax)

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