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Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math
38

Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)
Institute for JusticeYouTube

I am Googling him here, and it appears he has presented himself as an expert witness. Do chemical engineers understand flooding, piping and stormwater?

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

If he just wants to help his friends and neighbors, good for him...but if he's going to prepare formal documents to present in court...nope. That's a pretty clear violation of the NC regs. I like how they gloss over the licensing exemption that he operated under for his entire career and portrayed it as the evil board curtailing his rights now that he's retired.

Quote (IJ)

In this country, we rely on people to decide who they want to listen to. We do not rely on government to decide who gets to speak.

Okay...I can go along with that to a point. But as a society we've also decided that certain topics need to be addressed by experienced and knowledgeable individuals and we have created a system to vet them before we listen to them. So, in fact, the government regulation is how our society has decided who gets to speak in certain capacities on certain issues. Does that mean nobody can speak about engineering without a license? No. Does it mean people offering services for hire, legal proceedings, etc. need to be licensed? Yes. Yes it does.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

OK, so he's testifying as an "expert" witness, but he's never actually done the specific work he's testifying on, although he's done similar stuff. Nevertheless, there may be considerations and assumptions that he's unaware of, because he's not a practicing engineer in the field.

Quote (https://ij.org/case/nc-engineering-speech/)

Wayne’s trouble started when he volunteered to testify as an expert witness in a case his son, an attorney, was litigating. The case involved a piping system in a housing development that allegedly caused flooding in nearby areas, and Wayne, who had designed plenty of pipes in his day, volunteered to testify about the volume of fluid that pipe could be expected to carry. Wayne still had a copy of the leading sourcebook on his bookshelf, and the analysis itself seemed pretty easy—at least for Wayne.

So, I say, hang'em high

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Seems like another clear case of bureaucrats abusing their position. Given the frequency of this nonsense perhaps it’s time to start prosecuting them.

Nutt isn’t selling services to the public, therefore the industrial exemption applies. Case closed.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

Nutt isn’t selling services to the public, therefore the industrial exemption applies. Case closed.

You didn't read the article, or even my excerpt; he testified in court as an EXPERT witness, and it had nothing to do with making products in an industrial setting, which is what the exemption is for.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)
IRstuff,

...and half-baked expert witnesses are a problem in the courts. The lawyer was correct to challenge his credentials. If you were presented an engineer as an expert witness, what credentials would you accept?

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I didn't argue that he wasn't half-baked; if anything, I'm arguing the opposite, particularly since he's neither licensed, nor an expert in the that specific subject matter. If he had any expertise in the subject, he wouldn't have to point out that he got the flow equation from a textbook. That's a red flag to me already, irrespective of his possession or lack of license.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

If he had read the textbook he's probably more up to date on the subject matter than engineers licensed by professional associations who get a license once and are never tested on their knowledge again.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (geotechguy1)

If he had read the textbook he's probably more up to date on the subject matter than engineers licensed by professional associations who get a license once and are never tested on their knowledge again.

That might be true but he’s not demonstrating that he’s experienced enough in the subject to be considered an expert witness. I wouldn’t want a PE that only worked as a structural engineer providing an expect testimony on stormwater either. I think that should be left to those civil engineers with decades of experience with storm water design.

I haven’t seen the specific text that the board sent to Nutt but I think IJ might be conflating free speech and expert testimony. I had a couple of engineering professors that never got their PE license. Doesn’t mean they can’t teach or be even considered an expert on a subject.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

You didn't read the article, or even my excerpt; he testified in court as an EXPERT witness, and it had nothing to do with making products in an industrial setting, which is what the exemption is for.

Leave the rude comments elsewhere. I watched the video and read several of the articles. You clearly do not understand the industrial exemption nor licensing law. Stateside, licenses purportedly protect the "uneducated" general public from incompetent engineers. Businesses are afforded no such protection, so the exemption covers everything not sold to the public. Expert witnesses commonly aren't licensed, along with consultants, college professors, field service / maintenance engineers, software developers, and many others not making products nor working in an industrial setting.

I didnt find a published deposition, but Nutt made the statement that he calculated the max flow through a drain pipe and found it undersized for the application. I'd hope most Chem Es have done that. Opposing counsel can challenge his expertise and conclusion in court with their own witnesses if they choose to do so as is common, no need to call into question the legality of his making a statement. As to referencing texts, personally I triple check most every equation I use with a professional text as a matter of due diligence despite being able to quote many of them perfectly from memory. I'm often the go-to for resolving engineering errors and have taught, both experiences have shown me that silly errors and poor communication seem to be the most common culprits.

Quote:

I wouldn’t want a PE that only worked as a structural engineer providing an expect testimony on stormwater either.

Yet how many municipal engineers are responsible for a significant amount of infrastructure outside their experience stateside? All or just most?

Personally I'll give someone a bit of slack for experience that's semi-related bc there are many lacking anything relevant.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

• Twenty-two (22) states require expert witnesses to be licensed, of which nineteen allow
witnesses to be licensed in any state.
• Twenty-seven (27) states, as well as Guam, do not require expert witnesses to be licensed.
• One (1) state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have
no statutory requirements for expert witnesses.

https://www.fsmb.org/siteassets/advocacy/key-issue...

in addition, some states also require engineering work done prior to testifying must be sealed by a licensed engineer, even if the person testifying in court is not licensed.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

cvg - thanks for posting that, but it's specifically for medical testimony. Different rules apply for different topics.

Since these rules vary state to state and we're all in different states (or countries in some cases), I thought it would be useful to post source documents from North Carolina, where I am licensed and occasionally practice.

The NC rules of evidence don't appear to bar him directly from testifying:

Quote (NC Legislature, Chapte 8C, Evidence Code, S 8C-1.Rules of Evidence, Rule 702 Testimony by experts)

(a) If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion, or otherwise, if all of the following apply:
(1) The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data
(2) The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods.
(3) The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

The only mention of licensing requirements comes in section (b) when they discuss medical malpractice and being a licensed health care provider. Engineers on not specifically referenced in those rules (using 'find' feature in my browser, anyway).

Although the court doesn't seem to mind (legally) if he's licensed or not, I think it's important to compare Rule 702 with the definition of the practice of engineering for the state of North Carolina:

Quote (NC Legislature, Chapte 89C, Engineering and Land Surveying, S 89C-3.Definitions, (6)Practice of engineering. -)

Any service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience, in the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences to such services or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design of engineering works and systems, planning the use of land and water, engineering surveys, and the observation of construction for the purposes of assuring compliance with drawings and specifications, including the consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design for either private or public use, in connection with any utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, and industrial or consumer products or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic or thermal nature, insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress and completion of any engineering services.

A person shall be construed to practice or offer to practice engineering, within the meaning and intent of this Chapter, who practices any branch of the profession of engineering; or who, by verbal claim, sign, advertisement, letterhead, card, or in any other way represents the person to be a professional engineer, or through the use of some other title implies that the person is a professional engineer or that the person is licensed under this Chapter; or who holds the person out as able to perform, or who does perform any engineering service or work not exempted by this Chapter, or any other service designated by the practitioner which is recognized as engineering.

Emphasis mine

So by my reading, even though the rules of evidence don't mandate a PE explicitly, it's implied by the fact that doing it puts you squarely within the way the legislation defines the practice of engineering, for which a PE is required. But wait! There's more. As CWB1 rightly mentioned, there are exceptions to this rule. And in some states, those exemptions may very well cover engineering witnesses. But again, not all states are the same. North Carolina is very specific in what is exempted from the definition above, and they are listed in S 89C-25. Limitations on application of Chapter and summarized by NSPE in this state by state guide:


You'll notice that expert testimony in court is NOT listed as an exemption.


RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

So for the sake of clarity in argument, I make one request:

Categorize your argument - are you arguing that this is not a violation of NC law? If so, please cite the code to back it up. Or are you arguing that the law is wrong and he should be allowed to do it? Those are two fundamentally different arguments, and if we can't agree on what we're arguing about then we can't have a meaningful discussion about anything.

For the record, I believe he violated the law as it is written and I agree with the law - if he has sufficient expertise, knowledge, and training to provide expert testimony to a court of law then receiving his Professional Engineering license shouldn't be difficult.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

4
I'm of the opinion that an expert witness shouldn't need to be a licensed engineer to speak about engineering. If the testimony revolves around something that you would need to be licensed in order to design, then the opposing council can argue in court that the witness isn't credible due to their lack of licensing.

I'm thinking of two problems with the idea that being an expert witness on an engineering matter is "offering your services to the public" and would require licensure:
  • What happens when the testimony is about something that was designed under an industrial exemption? Many of the most qualified potential experts to speak about it wouldn't have their licenses because they also work under the industrial exemption.
  • Where is the potential liability? You aren't doing anything that could end up in someone getting hurt or causing property damage.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

Yet how many municipal engineers are responsible for a significant amount of infrastructure outside their experience stateside? All or just most?

Personally I'll give someone a bit of slack for experience that's semi-related bc there are many lacking anything relevant.

If I get pulled into a lawsuit over a project that I was involved with, I don’t want an Engineer, who has never worked in my industry, telling me it is their “expert” opinion that my settlement calculations were wrong because they took a soils class in college. Which is totally different than a engineer who works on municipal projects everyday questioning why a flexible retaining wall isn’t buried to frost depth.

The outcome of those two situations are drastically different. One can leave a black mark on my record and cost me a lot in insurance premiums and the other just costs me some time responding to a question on my submittal.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)
chris3eb,

If I sue you and I bring an expert witness in to claim that you are an idiot, what credentials should your lawyer accept? An engineer's license shows that he is subject to peer review. If he claims to be educated, I would expect at least a graduate degree of some kind. Experience — twenty years?

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

chris3eb -

-Good point on the litigation of work done under an exemption. I'm curious how much of an issue that would be, though. People within the company would likely be material witnesses rather than expert witnesses, and I wonder if they would seek out a competitor's engineer to provide an opinion? It's possible, but it seems like the 'go-to' would be an industry consultant. Somebody who built a career doing that work and then went out to advise firms on their engineering. Such consulting would then require a license, and it becomes moot. Certainly an area worth exploring, though.
-It goes beyond direct liability, I think. For one, I've never thought of the primary reason for a license to be a means of assigning liability. Due to our status as licensed engineers that is certainly a byproduct, but I've always considered it a means of verifying a person's bona fides. As CWB1 mentioned, it's about protecting the uneducated public and preventing fraudsters from spouting off at the mouth, claiming to be engineers, and then having a building collapses and somebody gets hurt. In that regard it is an imperfect system, but it's the one we have. Reforming the licensing system to ensure the competency of licensed engineers is another topic...

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (drawoh)

If I sue you and I bring an expert witness in to claim that you are an idiot, what credentials should your lawyer accept? An engineer's license shows that he is subject to peer review. If he claims to be educated, I would expect at least a graduate degree of some kind. Experience — twenty years?
I think it's all a game. If my lawyer thinks that challenging the expert witnesses' credentials will help me win the case, then that should be done. At some point, the credentials may be so strong challenging them may hurt may case in the eyes of the judge and/or jury. In this case, it seems like it would have been easy to challenge his credentials.

Quote (phamENG)

Good point on the litigation of work done under an exemption. I'm curious how much of an issue that would be, though. People within the company would likely be material witnesses rather than expert witnesses, and I wonder if they would seek out a competitor's engineer to provide an opinion? It's possible, but it seems like the 'go-to' would be an industry consultant. Somebody who built a career doing that work and then went out to advise firms on their engineering. Such consulting would then require a license, and it becomes moot. Certainly an area worth exploring, though.
I think people within the company may be witnesses as far as cover-ups, etc. but for your run of the mill bad design/negligence, I would think it would either be a competitor or an academic.

Quote (phamENG)

It goes beyond direct liability, I think. For one, I've never thought of the primary reason for a license to be a means of assigning liability. Due to our status as licensed engineers that is certainly a byproduct, but I've always considered it a means of verifying a person's bona fides. As CWB1 mentioned, it's about protecting the uneducated public and preventing fraudsters from spouting off at the mouth, claiming to be engineers, and then having a building collapses and somebody gets hurt. In that regard it is an imperfect system, but it's the one we have. Reforming the licensing system to ensure the competency of licensed engineers is another topic...
Maybe liability is the wrong word, but the license is there to protect the public. Testifying in court doesn't put the public at risk.

I could see the state getting fussy if they found out he said he was an engineer and didn't qualify that he didn't need a license for his work, but to say that he can't even talk about something that falls into their vague definition of engineering seems ridiculous. Would they go after chemistry or physics professor for testifying about something that they consider to be engineering, or do they just go after the industrial exemption folks?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Yes, Nutt has engineering expertise. Yes, he can probably analyze pipe flow. He is not a licensed professional engineer and has practiced his entire career under the "industrial exception". That exception does not allow an engineer to offer engineering services to the public, only to their industrial employers. There's the big difference. Licensed professional engineers have a statutory and ethical obligation to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Under the industrial exception, he cannot offer engineering services to the public without being appropriately licensed to do so. He was not. The Board was correct. He is practicing engineering to the public without a license.





























RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

2

Quote (chris3eb)

I'm of the opinion that an expert witness shouldn't need to be a licensed engineer to speak about engineering.
Agreed. I could be considered an "expert" in a category or three, but I have never received (nor ever will) a PE license. I highly doubt there's a PE in the world who could be considered an "expert" in the same areas as that's not the typical career path of someone who studies such things. But there have been numerous court cases (in public safety) where such expertise is required. Without the ability to use non-PE "experts", those cases could never move forward (at least on any technical merits), and I shudder to think such a witness could be fined or arrested for offering such testimony.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

It sounds like it would make sense for the legislation for the board and/or the rules of evidence to add a clause for engineering stating that expert testimony is exempt from the PE requirement so long as the engineering work under consideration was not required to be performed by a PE. So if you're dealing with a manufacturing or other 'industrial exemption' issue you can get experts like MacGyverS2000 to weigh in with their experience in the field, but if you're looking at an insufficient structural design or insufficient storm water design that were required to be designed by licensed professional engineers, the expert witnesses giving technical opinions on the adequacy or inadequacy of those designs should be licensed and experienced in their respective fields.

Seems fair enough.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

2

Quote:

I'm of the opinion that an expert witness shouldn't need to be a licensed engineer to speak about engineering.


I agree. It's a lawsuit case in court and no part of this "insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health or property" applies. He was testifying, so I hope he was truthful about his qualifications and work history when testifying to the questions about how he was qualified to calculate this flow value. If the other side feels they can counter or nullify his testimony by questioning his qualifications or providing their own witness, then that's on them to do so.

Making people afraid to testify in case an answer is perceived as "engineering" is a slippery slope to start travelling.

phamENG - As far as I'm concerned that's on the lawyers to decide. If the lawyer decides a non-licensed expert is their best choice to succeed, then that's their choice to make. If the opposition pokes holes in their experts testimony because of it. then they weren't that good a lawyer.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Here's the letter from the Board as shown on WECT 6 News:



The letter refers to 89C-23 which states:

Quote:

§ 89C-23. Unlawful to practice engineering or land surveying without licensure; unlawful use of title or terms; penalties; Attorney General to be legal adviser.

Any person who shall practice, or offer to practice, engineering or land surveying in this State without first being licensed in accordance with the provisions of this Chapter, or any person, firm, partnership, organization, association, corporation, or other entity using or employing the words "engineer" or "engineering" or "professional engineer" or "professional engineering" or "land surveyor" or "land surveying," or any modification or derivative of those words in its name or form of business or activity except as licensed under this Chapter or in pursuit of activities exempted by this Chapter, or any person presenting or attempting to use the certificate of licensure or the seal of another, or any person who shall give any false or forged evidence of any kind to the Board or to any member of the Board in obtaining or attempting to obtain a certificate of licensure, or any person who shall falsely impersonate any other licensee of like or different name, or any person who shall attempt to use an expired or revoked or nonexistent certificate of licensure, or who shall practice or offer to practice when not qualified, or any person who falsely claims that the person is registered under this Chapter, or any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this Chapter, in addition to injunctive procedures set out hereinbefore, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. In no event shall there be representation of or holding out to the public of any engineering expertise by unlicensed persons. It shall be the duty of all duly constituted officers of the State and all political subdivisions of the State to enforce the provisions of this Chapter and to prosecute any persons violating them.

The Attorney General of the State or an assistant shall act as legal adviser to the Board and render any legal assistance necessary to carry out the provisions of this Chapter. The Board may employ counsel and necessary assistance to aid in the enforcement of this Chapter, and the compensation and expenses for the assistance shall be paid from funds of the Board. (1921, c. 1, s. 12; C.S., s. 6055(n); 1951, c. 1084, s. 1; 1975, c. 681, s. 1; 1993, c. 539, s. 612; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1998-118, s. 21.)

To me, 89C-23 along with the activity exemption information provided in PhamENG's earlier post still points that Nutt's report should not be used as engineering testimony. The freedom of speech angle that IJ is taking seems like a reach. If the IJ wins, what counts as an expert's engineering testimony becomes murky.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Not only is the 1st Amendment defense a reach, it seems to be part of a troubling pattern conflating the remarkably broad language of the 1st Amendment with the idea that anyone can say whatever they please about anything in any setting - a concept that US jurisprudence has batted down often enough.

Had he taken this to a community meeting and said "I have a background in engineering and, after applying engineering principles and running a few calculations, I believe this design is not adequate. The design should be reviewed in detail by a third party." then he's 100% within his rights. The third party reviews it - maybe the community asks him to represent them in discussions with the reviewing engineer so they can understand why he decided what he did - and the reviewing engineer presents their report the court. Everything is on the up-and-up, and nobody has violated anything.

LionelHutz - fair enough. I disagree, though. If reviewing and testifying about a design that was required to be performed by a licensed engineer, the expert witness should also be licensed. The reason I say that is because the testimony, in most cases, is not limited to the technical aspects of the design. It will also include the standard of care. An academic or somebody not practicing engineering in a certain specialty will be unable to speak to the standard of care and, sure, it would be great if every analysis included parts A, B, C, D, E, and F, but for myriad reasons part E is left off and 99% of the time it doesn't matter. This time it did. So while it may be established that there was a way of knowing this would happen, no reasonable engineer in the region would have checked for it either. So I think a licensed PE would, in nearly all cases, be the best positioned to frame the testimony in a meaningful way. You can still say that an attorney should be able to work that out, and to a point you're right. I think the justice system in the US is something to be proud of, but it's also not perfect. I think we need a baseline to protect those who can't afford the top notch attorneys and prolonged legal battles to fight the deeper pockets. Because I really don't think a case should be decided based on the relative size of the check sent to the attorneys.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

4
I don't want to get all political, but beyond the merits of this individual case, there's a bigger issue. The think tank pushing this case, "Institute for Justice" is a libertarian group who wants to get rid of all licensing requirements. They pick attractive cases, like Mr. Nutt (retired old guy; he just wanted to help), and use them to eliminate licensing requirements (and ultimately, licensing) from the law.
They're working on Arizona (natch) and they're coming to your state soon! Follow the money.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Jed - I agree. I think the part that gets me the most is that I generally consider myself a libertarian. But where many others go the "smallest government possible to the verge of (or, why not, all the way to) anarchy" route I go with "smallest practicable government." The government exists for a reason and has several important jobs to do. I think managing the licensing requirements for engineers, doctors, and other professions to ensure a minimum standard for the health and safety of members of society is one of them.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I'd be curious of the report contents. I'm thinking the report is the real reason it's an issue, not the testifying. He likely wrote the report beforehand which was released into the general public and then went to court to testify about the report contents later.

The 1st amendment lawsuit certainly is a big reach.

I do agree that licensing is a requirement and that it's well proven that it can't be left up to the people to get it right. But, it's only a requirement when it's doing work that can put the public at risk.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

What's an 'expert', anyway? A PE with 20 years experience? 30? 40? Good chance said PE has 5 years of design experience and 35 years of Project Management / Management experience.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

That’s objective but an “expert” in stormwater design is not a chemical engineer.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (IJ)

Wayne Nutt spent over 37 years as a practicing engineer, mostly working for the DuPont corporation in North Carolina. In that time, he worked with a variety of different technologies and designed and built a variety of things, including pipes for transportation of fluid, while developing deep expertise in chemical engineering and technology.

Although Wayne is formally trained as an engineer (University of Iowa ‘67) and worked as an engineer, he’s never been a licensed engineer—none of the projects he worked on at DuPont required a stamp from a professional engineer, and, by working directly for DuPont, he avoided the licensing requirement in the various states where he worked (which included Texas, Tennessee, and briefly Virginia, in addition to his primary base in North Carolina).

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

are you arguing that this is not a violation of NC law? If so, please cite the code to back it up.

Stateside we have a common law system, so amateurs nitpicking statute is rather irrelevant. The important bit is how courts have historically interpreted statute, and regarding engineering licenses and the industrial exemption they have been amazingly consistent across the country. As mentioned, the defining characteristic is who the customer is. In this case, Nutt was working for a law firm (his son's) just like any other expert witness, so the industrial exemption applies.

Quote:

What's an 'expert', anyway? A PE with 20 years experience? 30? 40? Good chance said PE has 5 years of design experience and 35 years of Project Management / Management experience.

What's the quickest way to spot someone who was promoted into a nontechnical role? Look for a list of irrelevant education and certifications in their signature or on their business card - PE, PMP, MBA, etc.

JMO but the best thing we could do with our licensing system stateside is to get rid of it. Our licensing standards are far too low, which has created/promoted a guild of questionable competence who actively work against both public safety and the profession.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Pretty clear from the law that Nutt's activities are not exempted by the NC PE law

Quote (https://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/...)


§ 89C-25. Limitations on application of Chapter.
This Chapter shall not prevent the following activities:
(7a) The engineering or surveying activities of a person as defined by G.S. 89C-3(5) who is engaged in manufacturing, processing, producing, or transmitting and delivering a product or public utility service, and which activities are reasonably necessary and connected with the primary services performed by individuals regularly employed in the ordinary course of business by the person, provided that the engineering or surveying activity is not a holding out or an offer to the public of engineering or surveying services, as prohibited by this Chapter. The engineering and surveying services may not be offered, performed, or rendered independently from the primary services rendered by the person. For purposes of this subdivision, "activities reasonably necessary and connected with the primary service" include the following:

a. Installation or servicing of the person's product or public utility service by employees of the person conducted outside the premises of the person's business.

b. Design, acquisition, installation, or maintenance of machinery, equipment, or apparatus incidental to the manufacture or installation of the product or public utility service performed by employees of the person upon property owned, leased, or used by the person.

c. Research and development performed in connection with the manufacturing, processing, or production of the person's product or public utility service by employees of the person.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

An expert witness is whoever the court accepts as an expert witness. The law of a particular state can dictate to the court who is not acceptable, but not who is acceptable.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Does the judge vet expert witnesses before allowing their testimony or does the legal team just pick their expert witness and bring them into court? If the judge does, I'm thinking it's not too difficult for the law team to put together the information to quality their expert.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Don't know. Some quick googling turned up this article for lawyers learning how to vet their witnesses. The first few paragraphs where it talks about a judge throwing out a jury verdict after finding out the expert witness misrepresented their qualifications suggests they either do not vet them ahead of time or the vetting (on the judge's part) is cursory at best. I imagine there's some variation from court to court and judge to judge.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)
phamENG,

I am not aware of a trial being messed up by testimony from an unqualified engineering "expert". Engineering is a reputable and replicatable science. Read up on the Satanic child abuse investigations from the nineteen eighties. The "expert" witnesses accepted by the courts were cranks and religious kooks. Quite a few innocent people did serious prison time, and small children were traumatised by unqualified interrogators.

The lawyers who went through that must have learned the importance of vetting experts. To me, the professional engineer status shows that the witness is subject to a code of ethics and peer review. As a qualification, this would be at the top of my list.

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

drawoh - I'm not aware of engineering specific examples, either. I've read a few things about those trials lately, but not so much about the witnesses called; it's mostly been comparisons between conspiracy theories through the years.

You'd think they would, and perhaps they did, but how well was that passed on? Was it codified in court procedures? I have no clue. Sometimes it would be nice to have a lawyer on here to answer these sorts of questions.

And I agree - a PE would be an important quality in a qualified expert witness testifying on the work of another engineer (particularly a Professional Engineer).

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

phAMeng - Don't know. Some quick googling turned up this article for lawyers learning how to vet their witnesses. The first few paragraphs where it talks about a judge throwing out a jury verdict after finding out the expert witness misrepresented their qualifications suggests they either do not vet them ahead of time or the vetting (on the judge's part) is cursory at best. I imagine there's some variation from court to court and judge to judge.

My experience is that during trial the "experts" are questioned with respect to subject matter in front of the judge and the expert has to be accepted by the court as such. Scope of questioning by opposition attorney is part of case preparation.

It is also my experience that attorneys are advocates for their clients and some expect engineering experts to be so as well. This also takes place in the form of limiting expert testimony only to the facts that support their client. If the opposing attorney and expert do not investigate and/or discover some pertinent information, then that information is likely to be occulted and not become part of the trial record.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

At least in my jurisdictions, huge emphasis is placed on "offering advice for services within your scope of expertise"

I'm no expert on pipes, but does an engineer who worked at a chemical plant understand civil works adequately to offer advice on, much less testify about them in court?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I would have thought it was up to the court, in a general sense, to decide whether an expert witness' credentials, credibility, and explanations, were sufficient. What did Feynman know about O rings? Even less than me I expect.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

I'm no expert on pipes, but does an engineer who worked at a chemical plant understand civil works adequately to offer advice on, much less testify about them in court?

Does a civil engineer actually understand plumbing? Have they run much CFD or testing on complex systems? Have they analyzed failed parts to implement system improvements? No disrespect intended to anyone but the civil world isn't known for modern engineering practice, quite the opposite.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

What in the court decides an expert witness is an expert or that their credentials are suitable though? It's possible a judge could toss an expert witness with good cause, but in most cases I would think each side questions the expert witness and then the judge or jury decides what to believe same as any other witness.

The article linked by phamENG gives cases of perjury by the expert, which certainly could cause a verdict to be tossed out.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

There is no possible public safety or health consequence of an expert witness getting something wrong (inadequate performance).

Therefore expert witness are not practicing engineering.

Quote (NC General Statutes)

§ 89C-3. Definitions.

The following definitions apply in this Chapter:

(6) Practice of engineering. -

a. Any service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience, in the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences to such services or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design of engineering works and systems, planning the use of land and water, engineering surveys, and the observation of construction for the purposes of assuring compliance with drawings and specifications, including the consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design for either private or public use, in connection with any utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, and industrial or consumer products or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic or thermal nature, insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress and completion of any engineering services.

A person shall be construed to practice or offer to practice engineering, within the meaning and intent of this Chapter, who practices any branch of the profession of engineering; or who, by verbal claim, sign, advertisement, letterhead, card, or in any other way represents the person to be a professional engineer, or through the use of some other title implies that the person is a professional engineer or that the person is licensed under this Chapter; or who holds the person out as able to perform, or who does perform any engineering service or work not exempted by this Chapter, or any other service designated by the practitioner which is recognized as engineering.

b. The term "practice of engineering" shall not be construed to permit the location, description, establishment or reestablishment of property lines or descriptions of land boundaries for conveyance. The term does not include the assessment of an underground storage tank required by applicable rules at closure or change in service unless there has been a discharge or release of the product from the tank.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)

Quote (CWB1)


Does a civil engineer actually understand plumbing?

My college fluid mechanics text was Fluid Mechanics with Engineering Applications, Seventh Edition, by Robert L. Daugherty (mechanical and hydraulic engineer) and Joseph B. Franzini (civil engineer). Drainage from land and buildings is civil engineering.

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)
LionelHutz,

Unless the judge is qualified in whatever branch of engineering the expert witness practises, they have to examine credentials. Again, there is no substitute for peer review.

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

What kind of engineer is God? Only a civil engineer would run a major sewerage project adjacent to a recreation area.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

drawoh - So, listens to the testimony and decides how much weight to give it when making the judgement.

I still don't think it was the court appearance that got him in trouble, it was the paper that he allegedly wrote.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Nearly all of us here, PE or not, have a fairly good idea of the what, how, and why of PE-hood. Dude should have known better, or at least gotten a professional opinion before proceeding.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (CWB1)

Does a civil engineer actually understand plumbing? Have they run much CFD or testing on complex systems? Have they analyzed failed parts to implement system improvements? No disrespect intended to anyone but the civil world isn't known for modern engineering practice, quite the opposite.

As a civil/structural guy i will freely admit our field, compared to other engineering fields, is less raw science and more experience, practical knowledge and judgement. Which is a great reason why a chemical engineer from an industrial plant background probably isnt qualified to critique civil designs.

Just because I aced electro-magnetics in college, and use computers every day doesnt mean I'm well placed to judge circuit designs

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Since there's no substitute for peer review, perhaps we should ask the stone masons what their thoughts are on this newfangled engineering profession ;)

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

In my (non-expert) opinion, there are two completely distinct questions here that are getting muddied together. These are different questions decided by different arms of government at different times.
1) Is this an expert as determined by the Judiciary? Credentials can always be challenged by the opposition, who is free to offer their own expert in response.
2) Was the testimony given a violation of engineering law?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

As a civil/structural guy i will freely admit our field, compared to other engineering fields, is less raw science and more experience, practical knowledge and judgement.

IME people and firms vary more than industries. There's a ton of grunt-level design and process/documentation everywhere. Good/ethical engineers only rely on experience to find less-obvious failure modes. Hacks everywhere claim "experience" allows for shortcuts, skipping analysis or reviews. I've known CEs that would fit in great at any of my employers and were plenty capable. I've also known hacks both in CE and product development worlds that went to silly lengths to justify profit, the only real difference is the customer - public vs businesses, neither of which is acceptable to screw.

Design reviews IME are open-door to anyone/everyone from the shop floor trades to the financial folks in sales/marketing and engineers range from junior to chief, disciplines and niches are irrelevant. A good question is a good question from anybody, and many of the best come from non-engineers. When I am in one for a niche far removed from my own, my questions initially revolve around the completeness of analysis at a high level (what did they skip or miss?) then I like to ask about most likely failure modes if not highlighted. I find it rather disturbing when someone claims to know their design but cant rattle off failure modes and design weaknesses bc very few designs are optimized that well in reality.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (CWB1)

Design reviews IME are open-door to anyone/everyone

I agree. But a design review is not the same as court testimony. Just as you would not consult a sales team in court on engineering design, financial folks on engineering design, you should not consult a process engineer from a chemical plant for storm drainage designs and consider that appropriate expert testimony.

Unless you are an expert on floodplane designs (which this fellow is not, he is not a civil engineer), he shouldnt be testifying on the designs in court.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

My two cents on the issue.

Professional engineering licensing statutes that attempt to limit the use of the term "engineer" beyond forbidding an individual or firm from advertising/selling design services to the public are overly broad. Going after individuals like Nutt and the traffic light guy from Oregon makes these boards seem petty and vindictive. In this case and the one in Oregon it seems to me that board is acting to silence public criticism of the decisions made by licensees of the board, which is not a good look for the board. Other professional licensing boards are not pulling this type of behavior. Colloquially the term doctor refers to a medical doctor. State medical boards are not going after other professions that refer to themselves as doctors such as veterinarians, detests and chiropractors. They also aren't going after Facebook moms shilling essential oils for every malady under the sun for practicing medicine without a license. If an individual is trained as an engineer and operated as an engineer for decades in an exempt industry claims that they are an engineer, as long as they are not offering restricted commercial services the board can go pound sand.

That being said I don't think Nutt will make a convincing expert witness, in fact I would think the opposing council would be positively giddy that the plaintiffs in this case have not retained other witnesses.
The cross examination would quickly establish Nutt's lack of experience in drainage design and civil engineering. The defendant could then take the stand and show his expertise to me much greater than Nutt's. The only reason I would expect that defendants would object to Nutt's testimony is that their omission is so glaring that simple calculations that even a layman can fully understand point it out.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

ust as you would not consult a sales team in court on engineering design, financial folks on engineering design, you should not consult a process engineer from a chemical plant for storm drainage designs and consider that appropriate expert testimony.
Unless you are an expert on floodplane designs (which this fellow is not, he is not a civil engineer)

If I took that attitude I'd prob have been run out of industry as a junior engineer and certainly not had half the successes I enjoyed. As to Nutt not being a CE, how do you know he doesn't have relevant CE experience? I wouldn't be surprised to see a Chem or other (uncivil? :P) E in operations designing containment, drainage, pumping, or other similar systems.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

As to Nutt not being a CE, how do you know he doesn't have relevant CE experience?

Quote (https://ij.org/utility/case-print/?case-name=17407...)

From Wayne’s perspective, it was a simple calculation that just required him to pick up the book Cameron Hydraulic Data off his bookshelf and do a little simple math—or, at least, math that was pretty simple for someone who had been doing this his whole life.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

3
If having to look something up in a textbook disqualifies someone as an expert, I have bad news for the entire engineering profession.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (CWB1)

If I took that attitude I'd prob have been run out of industry as a junior engineer and certainly not had half the successes I enjoyed.

Maybe that’s why you are disagreeing with us who are in agreement with the board? In the US, civil engineers (and all the subset disciplines) are required to stay within their capabilities. If you are suspected to be practicing outside of your expertise you can lose your license. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do something new, become proficient in it, and then start offering it as a service. But that typically requires years of working under someone that is considered competent.

All the old timers like to show off their Professional Engineer stamps that don’t have a discipline associated with it. In theory they could stamp any type of engineering drawings. Of course this led to people rubber stamping things and is part of the reason stamps now have disciplines printed on them.

My state doesn’t even allow me to publicly comment on another engineers work without being paid to do so.

Quote (CWB1)

As to Nutt not being a CE, how do you know he doesn't have relevant CE experience? I wouldn't be surprised to see a Chem or other (uncivil? :P) E in operations designing containment, drainage, pumping, or other similar systems.

You wouldn’t be surprised a chemical engineer understood how to design a site specific stormwater system? Do you think he knows what storm intensity and duration to design the system for? Is he familiar with the local regulations? Does he even know how to calculate the flow going into a catch basin? My guess is probably not, which leads me to believe he’s not an expert.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (chd)

The Cameron Hydraulic Data Book is a Flowserve Corporation publication
and, as in the previous nineteen editions, is published as an aid to engineers
involved with the selection and application of pumping equipment.

Quote ( )

Wayne still had a copy of the leading sourcebook on his bookshelf...

Cameron is hardly the civil engineers "source book" for drainage. any drainage engineer worth his salt would know that Chow, Brater and King and HEC-22 among others might be a lot more relevant

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

Maybe that’s why you are disagreeing with us who are in agreement with the board? In the US, civil engineers (and all the subset disciplines) are required to stay within their capabilities. If you are suspected to be practicing outside of your expertise you can lose your license. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do something new, become proficient in it, and then start offering it as a service. But that typically requires years of working under someone that is considered competent.

Funny you mention bc I often make that exact argument. Both on this board and otherwise, many CEs proudly proclaim that their license allows them to practice in niches that they have no experience. Those folks are also usually selling their one-person firm to the public as capable of anything/everything and often argue against the ethical requirement for engineering review. Interestingly enough, the guild does nothing to address either issue despite various societies repeatedly pushing for enforcement of both. The other aspect of that issue is the huge variety of work most point to as evidence of "experience" and "expertise." If an industrial team were to design a large home or small commercial structure for example, we'd split the work between engineers with one specializing in foundations, another in framing, another siding, another roofing, etc bc that level of deep expertise is the standard for the 80%+ stateside. Much less and folks will question your ethics in industry. Go overseas and you'll find that taken to another level, particularly among the Europeans who we often joke have an engineer for every fastener. In the civil industry stateside however many CEs are the proverbial jack of all trades, designing based on comparatively little experience resulting in no real expertise and using antiquated methods.

Quote:

You wouldn’t be surprised a chemical engineer understood how to design a site specific stormwater system? Do you think he knows what storm intensity and duration to design the system for? Is he familiar with the local regulations? Does he even know how to calculate the flow going into a catch basin?

No, yes, yes, and yes. Its not uncommon for operations' staff to have significant experience in facilities' design. Its also not uncommon for medium and large companies to have every variety of expert imaginable on-staff from historians to medical doctors to meteorologists to international security experts.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

5
Fascinating discussion here. If I'm ever asked to testify as an expert, I will make sure to consult my states laws on engineering licensing. The discussion is getting a little heated, but I do want to throw in my high-level two cents. Being a EE I certainly don't have any expertise in Civil, Structural or Chemical, but to me the issues at stake are less of the technical nature itself but how engineers are treated in general. I kind of agree with both sides of this argument to some degree so much as:

1. Mr. Nutt was technically in violation of the law per the way the NC law is written with the caveat that I make that statement based on the excerpts I have read here. There could be an exemption elsewhere not being mentioned that I'm unaware of, or maybe a law specifically pertaining to witness testimony but from what's here it looks pretty clear cut that he was in violation.

2. However, to those arguing for him, I agree that I don't think he had an ill intent, or any potential to cause damage, and relative to the lawyers and lay people, he was an "expert" who knew more on the subject than they did. It does not appear that his calculations were incorrect, and I don't think he misrepresented himself. He didn't claim to have any certifications or experience he didn't actually have (AFAIK). He was an engineer, even if not licensed (as am I and probably most of the people on this forum). If everyone was prosecuted for technically violating a law, almost everyone here would be paying large fines and/or sitting in jail or prison right now for violations we probably make every day, unaware we're even violating the law. Due to the specificity of laws not covering all possible cases, often courts and law enforcement will use the "intent" or "spirit" of the law as guidance and in practice, and I don't think Mr. Nutt was in violation of the "intent" or "spirit" of this law. I think the board is being overbearing in insisting on enforcing it in this case. I also think attempting to enforce this law on Mr. Nutt is petty and sets a bad precedent for engineers everywhere, who fear we could be silenced even if we are speaking with knowledge we have that would be pertinent to the case. I agree that the law shouldn't apply here (even though it does) and if the witness is not credible, then it's up the the opposing side to show the witness is not credible. If he can honestly help the case, he should be able to without fear of reprisal.

3. I also agree that IJ is taking the free speech argument too far. It's a growing trend lately that people feel to spout out all sorts of unqualified information and when called out on it, say they have the right to free speech and therefore can say anything they want. There are limits, especially if someone can get hurt in whatever way (physically, financially, or emotionally[Talking serious emotional scars here from things like brainwashing, sexual harassment, etc., not simple hurt feelings]). When your "speech" starts interfering with someone else's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness then a line has to be drawn. One the extreme end, everyone can agree that things like death threats, bomb scares, other malicious speech is not protected speech. Claiming to be something you're not (e.g. an engineer or other expert) should not be considered free speech [Again, I don't think Mr. Nutt was actually claiming to be something he's not]. As much as I think the board prosecuting Mr. Nutt sets a bad precedent, a win for IJ based on this argument also sets a bad precedent.

4. The way the law defines an engineer is asinine and it should be changed. Most engineers I know don't fit into the category. Granted, most fit under the "exemption" and therefore can claim to be engineers, but if it means they can't claim to be an engineer in court when they do have applicable expertise it's bunk. It should have a definition of qualifications for an engineer, and perhaps separate definitions of licensed vs. unlicensed engineers.

5. Someone suggested an engineer must have a graduate degree? I have a Bachelor's and though most Masters and PhDs I know are very smart people and certainly have particular areas of engineering they are much better engineers than me in, my 18 years of experience make me better in the particular areas I have practiced. I think an accredited degree or license should be part of the requirement, but if we put up too many more fences, we create more problems. Also I know purely Academic Masters and PhD engineers that have great theoretical knowledge but little ability to apply it to the real world. Something more engineers with just Bachelors degrees who found jobs right after college and worked them for years tend to be better in. I also know electricians who never went to college that would make great engineers. I'm not knocking any of these qualifications, just saying we all have our different abilities and are all "engineers" of different capacities. And anyone, regardless of paper credentials, has the capability of being incompetent at their job. I have met many of like that, too.

That being said, and though I agree some sort of qualification needs to be defined for an engineering expert, life is weird and funny and gray rather than black and white. Some people are hard to categorize, or typecast as they might say in the acting world. So I also want to share a story.

A few years back I met the most brilliant electrical engineer I've ever worked along side in my entire life so far. No one that worked with him would disagree he was brilliant. He solved problems no on else was able to figure out. The success of one of the biggest projects I was on (biggest so far for me at the time) was due in large part to him. His one issue may have been he was always talking over people's heads in ways they couldn't understand. To that end, part of my job became translating what he was saying to something more digestible by management (or even some of the other engineers). He taught me a lot about electrical engineering, particularly about controls and programming. A lot of people assumed he was a PhD in electrical engineering. Some people mistakenly called him "doctor" (he was quick to correct them if he heard them say that). He had the respect of many actual PhDs in the field and as far as I know, everyone that worked with him. But he never misrepresented himself. His credentials and his full resume were available to everyone working with him. He had a Bachelor's in chemical engineering (and many years of controls experience that are a story too long for here). I still stand by the statement that he's the most brilliant electrical engineer I ever met and I would trust my life to his engineering expertise.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

2
Capt. Karnage -

Excellent post.

The master's degree may be a bit more specialty specific. In the Civil world, we finish school and, for the vast majority of us, we go one of 5 or 6 ways and never look back. You dig into your specialty and that's that. A license is essentially required to get beyond entry level if you're going to work in design (I only know of one exception...I'm sure there are more, of course). So while all of the knowledge is useful to some degree, most civil engineers could cover all of the theory they use in their day to day jobs in about a year to a year and a half in college. My suggestion re: requiring a master's degree expands that and allows us to dig a little deeper into the theory of our specialty before hitting the street. From my observations, it's the lack of theoretical grounding combined with limited mentor-ship that leads junior engineers to simply regurgitating code sections and prescriptive design tables. Or worse yet - incorrectly applying them because they don't understand how they were developed or where they came from.

A trend I see coming out of a lot of these posts is a split between people who work mostly in building and civil design and those who work in mechanical, electrical, industrial, manufacturing, etc. So, essentially those who work in fields dominated by licensed consultants vs. exempt engineers working for manufacturers, etc. There are exceptions, of course, but there's clear bias in most of our opinions - mine included.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

(OP)
Capt. Karnage,

I am the one who brought up graduate degrees. For the record, I am an engineering technologist with a three‑year diploma. I am certified by a professional body.

We wind the clock back to your university days, and this time, you majored in History. and nineteenth century French literature. Then you went to law school.

Eighteen years later, you are a judge, and I am in your court claiming to be qualified to give expert testimony on some branch of engineering. You know diddleysquat about engineering. I actually know a couple of people who graduated from engineering, and then they went into law school. Perhaps I am claiming to be a medical expert, or an expert on child abuse. The whole point of expert testimony is that in context of the science, the judge, the attorneys and the jury are laypeople. In the absence of an expert, they must examine all the facts and then draw conclusions on their own. The expert is going to tell them what it all means.

  • Education — does a bachelor's degree set you apart?
  • Experience — You need lots of it, and probably successful results to point to.
  • Peer review — Somebody out there that we trust, respects you.
Maybe you don't need everything on the list. Two out of three? Now we can insist on the doctorate!

--
JHG

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

What if you meet the criteria, and you're a civil engineer, but the expert testimony is about pavement design, retaining wall design, or loads on pipes (areas generalist civil engineers frequently stake a claim to), but your opponent brings some goetech engineer with 70 years experience to court and says those three areas are actually all fundamentally geotechnical in nature so your expertise as a civil engineer isn't worth much?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

geotechguy1,
That is for the court to decide. But the other side is taking a chance that the court will consider their old geotechnical engineer as just an arrogant old fool. After experts are accepted by the judge to give expert testimony, the content and tone of testimony will matter to a jury.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote:

your opponent brings some goetech engineer with 70 years experience to court and says those three areas are actually all fundamentally geotechnical in nature

That's the nature of competing expert opinions, though; while engineering is probably more solid, the variety of building and structure designs imply there's more than one right answer, sometimes.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I agree, and they should let the court decide in this case as well.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

2
I had written up a long, point-by-point response to things, but it was quite long and boring and I'm sure it would just get TLDR'd. lol

Long story short - one thing I didn't address was the quality of the testimony. It was lacking. He was a witness of convenience so I agree the lawyer didn't do his job adequately. It was "hey, my dad's an engineer, he knows about this stuff" and didn't search for a better witness when he should have. For that, his client should be upset, and the judge and opposition have every right to question his expertise on the subject.

However, where my point is at is I don't believe that by stepping in to be the expert witness - of which he was RELATIVELY an expert compared to a layperson - that he did something criminal or in any way worthy of criminal punishment. I think he was doing his honest best and thought he could help and nothing he stated was actually wrong AFAIK. He wasn't trying to deceive in anyway.

How do we vet an "expert" is a much broader and complicated question that doesn't have any easy answers and our current system is woefully inadequate. The current system, in most cases, is too lax and ill defined. However, defining it too much could restrict actual experts from being able to testify because they don't meet the exact wickets of the definition. I think NC's definition happens to be problematic in both directions - it is too restrictive by requiring a certification not all otherwise qualified engineers have, and if interpreted the way the board does, could restrict a large number of qualified engineers from ever testifying. However, at the same time is too lax because it doesn't address specialties or having actual expertise in the specific field used for testimony. It's just (generically) certified or not, which is not a good measure of a "subject matter expert" with the broad scope of what "engineering" is today.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I've noticed that real-life lawyers are clearly not in the same league as Perry Mason; nevertheless, questioning by the lawyers, from either side, should establish the witnesses' bona fides, as well as questioning the appropriateness and applicability of the witnesses' experience.

In particular, this witness, Nutt, should have been cross-examined sufficiently to show that he had zero actual experience in the specifics of the case, seemingly relying only on one textbook's rather generalized equation. Likewise, he would seemingly have not examined any discovery material, such as the actual plans and drawings of the system in question. I can't imagine he actually did anything good for the plaintiffs' case.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I have been an expert witness several times, and hope my favorite definitions of an expert do not apply to me:

1) Drip under pressure
2) Guy from out of town with a briefcase

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (IRstuff)

In particular, this witness, Nutt, should have been cross-examined sufficiently to show that he had zero actual experience in the specifics of the case, seemingly relying only on one textbook's rather generalized equation. Likewise, he would seemingly have not examined any discovery material, such as the actual plans and drawings of the system in question. I can't imagine he actually did anything good for the plaintiffs' case.

I agree with you that Nutt may not be the most effective witness, but the question here is on of availability and access. In the ideal world Nutt would tell his son the case passes the smell test, and would recommend finding a licensed civil engineer to testify. In an ideal world all clients would have access to the same quality of lawyers and expert witnesses, but in reality the plaintiffs bringing this case probably don't have the $5-10K upfront to pay a licensed civil engineer willing to be a witness to review and comment on the design of the drainage system in question. Nutt's son the lawyer probably doesn't have it either. In order to lodge a legal compliant some level of technical testimony is required. There should be some minimum bar for that technical testimony, but that is generally is and should be decided by the courts. I believe that Nutt meet that bar in this case given the fact that he was being actively deposed. Can he accurately comment on technical minutia of a drainage system? Probably not as has previously been pointed out, but what he is capable of is showing an order of magnitude rough estimate of what would reasonably be required to protect surrounding homes. If he is way off base the defense will be able to adequately show that with the defendants assistance.

The board chose to assist the defendant in this case with an arguably retaliatory action. It appears petty of both the board and the defendant. Other developed nations don't have professional engineering licensure laws, and their buildings and roads aren't collapsing. Their streets aren't flooding. So what purpose does a licensing board serve?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (SPDL310)

Other developed nations don't have professional engineering licensure laws

To which developed nations are you referring?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Yeah, that's what I meant.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Quote (phamENG)

To which developed nations are you referring?

Apparently not the ones I was thinking of. I was thinking of the UK and EU, but their registering system is similar to US licensing boards upon further investigation. Apparently I was wrong in that assumption. My libertarian leanings still lead me to question the usefulness of many occupational licensing boards including engineering. In the case of engineering I believe that licensure requirements requirements especially in the civil engineering sphere where almost everything needs to be stamped leads to a guild like system which is propped up by underpaid unlicensed junior engineers toiling away to gain the experience to meet licensure requirements. Those same junior engineers are then locked into a narrow scope of practice once they become licensed.

I will stand by my statement that the behavior of the defendant in this law suit and by extension the local board was less than exemplary. The defendant reported Nutt in an arguably punitive manor. The board likely would not have investigated claims by the defendant if they were leveled at a direct competitor or an ex-employer, due to the conflict of interest. The fact that the board doesn't consider that when the individual reported is an opposition witness to the individual reporting him is concerning to me.

The NSPE article that stevenal linked has the following to say about appearing to testify as an expert:

Quote:

Nevertheless, as a general proposition, it is generally acknowledged that an individual may be qualified as a technical expert by a court without possessing the minimum legal recognition as demonstrated by a professional license. Both state and federal courts adhere to this rule, and thus it would appear that unless a particular state licensing law prohibited individuals from performing services as an expert, there would not be any legal impediment to prevent an unlicensed individual from functioning as an expert.

I personally believe that the wording of the NC licensure law should not be interpreted to mean offering public comment or testimony constitutes practicing engineering as defined by the statute. The secondary clause which you emphasized earlier is informed by the preceding section which defines what practice and service mean.

Quote:

Any service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience, in the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences to such services or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design of engineering works and systems, planning the use of land and water, engineering surveys, and the observation of construction for the purposes of assuring compliance with drawings and specifications, including the consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design for either private or public use, in connection with any utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, and industrial or consumer products or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic or thermal nature, insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress and completion of any engineering services.

A person shall be construed to practice or offer to practice engineering, within the meaning and intent of this Chapter, who practices any branch of the profession of engineering; or who, by verbal claim, sign, advertisement, letterhead, card, or in any other way represents the person to be a professional engineer, or through the use of some other title implies that the person is a professional engineer or that the person is licensed under this Chapter; or who holds the person out as able to perform, or who does perform any engineering service or work not exempted by this Chapter, or any other service designated by the practitioner which is recognized as engineering.

Emphasis mine

Edited to remove double quote.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Perhaps they should bring in the guy from the Post 10 YouTube channel who has hundreds of videos of him, a guy unlikely to have any college degree (though I could be wrong) repairing drainage problems that are a direct result of designs by holders of PEs (and the occasional beaver family.)

I certainly don't see any PEs in the flood areas explaining that failing to account for the debris that is clogging the drains is a problem - but sure, if it wasn't for reality those drains would be perfect. Would a PE expert in drainage know such things?

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

That’s a maintenance issue, not a design issue. Talk to the local public works department.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

The local municipal engineer is ultimately responsible for the design and maintenance of all public works in their jurisdiction, so design vs maintenance is a moot point.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

no, debris clogging is often a design issue. as in you failed to provide a large enough trash rack to handle the debris that should have been predicted. us flood control engineers usually provide a factor of safety for such things...

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

I watched a couple of Post10 videos. Seemed to me the issue was vegetation getting clogged in the grates of inlets, typically for catch basins, during or after heavy intense storms in the fall. I'm interested in how you would design for that?

In my area, the good DPWs would just periodically clean the streets and catch basins during the fall, not increase the size of the inlet to allow for a bigger grate.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

standard practice is to size the grates assuming 50% clogged. if debris is assumed to be a frequent problem, than a grated inlet is the wrong choice. it probably should not have a grate. or the grate should be designed to not clog. there are options.

maintenance is usually not the solution, because a grate can easily get clogged during a storm and no opportunity to come out and maintain it during the rain.

RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Nevertheless, lots of storm drains tend to get no maintenance until it clogs; "It's not a problem until it's a problem" is often the philosophy

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Government Threatens Retired Engineer With a Crime for Doing Math

Does anyone know the reason for the original analysis at the core of the issue?

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