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Liability Question

Liability Question

Liability Question

When conducting code review and design checking as a third party for another engineer who would be the engineer of recod, what is the liabilty? Is a P.E. even required?


RE: Liability Question

Liability ultimately falls back on the EOR... it's his job to make sure everything is safe, even if he chooses to have someone else do his work.

Dan - Owner

RE: Liability Question

I am guessing that just by getting involved - you will be accepting some level of liability.  Check with your lawyer or insurance company...

RE: Liability Question

I think what Mike means you assume some risk, not necesarily liability.  You run the risk of being sued, and the associated cost of defending yourself, but you may not be found liable for damages.  One of the first actions your attorney will make is a motion for summary judgement to dismiss you from the case based on whatever evidence he places in his motion.  

Don Phillips

RE: Liability Question

I agree w/Don - probably mis-worded my response.

Bottom line - it will cost you money and aggravation.

If you put your name on it in any way - like writing a report - then you may have risk & liability.

RE: Liability Question

This isn't a simple answer, but it's my best guess.

There's not much in our world today that you can do that doesn't involve liability. Simply driving down the road makes you liable for things.

To answer your question, though, you can take a look at what establishes tort. Three questions are usually asked in a liability case:

1) there must be a duty to care to another person
2) there must be a breach of that duty
3) the claimant must have suffered damages caused by the breach of duty.

As a professional engineer, your duty to care is elevated when you establish that your a professional engineer, because you are using your license to establish yourself a competent person. In your case, you would have a duty to care for the drawings your checking.

(For example, your client hires a 3rd grader instead of you, it would be hard to establish that the 3rd grader has a duty to care in code reviews since it's something that the 3rd grader is not knowlegable in. On the other hand, you, as a professional engineer, are supposed to know something about it.)

You can breach that duty by making mistakes, which we all know happen often as an engineer. Engineers live in a black and white world while restuarant workers and actors live in a very colorful world.

Your client could suffer damage if they lose a bid (for example) because their drawing proposal doesn't meet code and you attested that it does.

So I think the answer is yes-you do assume liability. There are ways you can minimize the liability but I'll hold off on suggesting since that wasn't your question.

RE: Liability Question

I would suspect that if things went bad, everybody could be sued. You'd have to check with an attorney to find out how likely it is that it would amount to anything.

I have a friend that sold swingsets as a small off-shoot of his main business. A bolt failed and there was suing. Even though he basically was just a distributer, he ended up getting sued. I'm not sure on the details, but he was quite upset that he was being blamed. Just because it sat in his warehouse, he was being sued. He did not manufacture, design, assemble, or deliver the swingset.

-- MechEng2005

RE: Liability Question

Thanks for everyone's response!

A follow up question then, is code review and plan checking necessarily an engineering service? Here are two examples I just found on the internet, where they appear not to be licensed engineers, but rather subcontractos of technical services.


Is it not the professional engineer of records responsibility to verify or even accept what the subcontracting company's like this recommendations are?

RE: Liability Question

You don't have to use your seal if your customer doesn't require it. While the seal "shouldn't" add more liability, it makes it easy to point fingers at you later on.

There are ways of limiting your liability. Not doing your work as an engineer may be one of them but you can't ask the same for your hourly rate, either.

I'd rather hire engineers to do code review than non-engineers (i.e., 5th graders).

RE: Liability Question

Be careful with the statement that you don't have to use your seal if your customer doesn't require it.  Mechanical is probably different than structural, but in Illinois (other states might be similar) the law states:

"Every licensed structural engineer shall have a reproducible seal or facsimile, the print of which shall contain the name and license number of the structural engineer, and the words "Licensed Structural Engineer," "State of Illinois." The licensed structural engineer shall seal all plans, drawings, and specifications prepared by or under the engineer's supervision." (225 ILCS 340/12)

RE: Liability Question

If you reviewing documents, and this would vary by state, but in general, I think would depend if you were an employee of the EOR's firm or a subcontractor. If you are an employee, then I wouldn't think you need to be licenced as you are doing it under the EOR. supervision. If the firm is sued, the firm would probably under state law indemnify you.

If you are a subcontracting firm and you are doing the work with out a licenced professional reviewing it, then the firm and you may be liable. If you are in the second catagory, I would look into your state licensing laws.

RE: Liability Question

"The licensed structural engineer shall seal all plans, drawings, and specifications prepared by or under the engineer's supervision."

The problem with this statement is the word all. Does that mean an Illinois engineer, who is taking graduate courses, must seal his homework that he turns in to his professor?

What if the engineer is also an artist in the evening and likes to draw? Do those drawings need to be sealed since it was prepared under the PE?

What about rough drafts of engineering work? Does he have to seal everything that comes off the printer?

I believe the meaning was that the engineer needs to sign all drawings when he is acting as an engineer. My comments to the OP is he may not need to sign as an engineer for the work he is doing.

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