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Some Legal Advice
3

Some Legal Advice

Some Legal Advice

(OP)
So I will give you guys a quick run down,
We are a structural firm and provide CAD drawings for the foundation , floors and roof.

5 Years back we had done a project for a client .
Today we get an email from a lawyer demanding calculations from that project . There is no written or verbal agreement with the client when the project was submitted 5 years back.
What is the legal advice here ? Are we bound to provide them the calculation ?

RE: Some Legal Advice

I'm not a lawyer, but from all the television shows I watch, you're not legally required to do anything without a court order (subpoena, warrant, etc.).
Now if your contract required that you deliver calculations, it's not going to be hard for the lawyer to get a court order. And then it's going to look like you have something to hide. Plus there's an expense involved, which might burn your bridges with your old client.

RE: Some Legal Advice

(OP)
There was no contract to begin with , Is there any law the requires us to provide calculation to the client regardless there was an agreement or not ?

RE: Some Legal Advice

Kishan Yadav:
The best legal advice here is..., get yourself an attorney. That is really a “quick run down” and probably needs a little more fleshing out, before the whole story starts to suggest a proper line of action. Attorneys don’t usually send emails as a means of showing they really mean business, from a legal standpoint. Was there any mention of a reason for a pending cause of action, what was that, and what might that action be?

RE: Some Legal Advice

(OP)
No the lawyer had just emailed us, asking to provide calculations for the project. I dont believe we have had any kind of contract with the client , binding us to provide them with calculations in specific. My question here would be , are we legally binded as structurual engineers to provide calculation regardless of any kind of agreement with the client prior to the job completion. And considering the project was 5 yaers old , I dont think we are able to locate the calculations anyways. What would be the way to proceed.

RE: Some Legal Advice

Ask a real lawyer!

RE: Some Legal Advice

...as noted. Talk to a lawyer and unless there's a contractual obligation to provide calcs then I wouldn't entertain this. You can send an eMail back, asking for a reason for the request. In my reports, I note that all project notes or photographs will be made available... I just don't note that it may require a court order to produce them.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Some Legal Advice

Quote (There was no contract to begin with)


Depending on your jurisdiction... there was a contract, albeit, maybe verbal. It's still a contract.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Some Legal Advice

I think you shall try to find out why the client is looking for engineering calculations after years have passed. It would be too late after receiving a court order.

RE: Some Legal Advice

I just realised it... it's odd the request came from a lawyer.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Some Legal Advice

I think the initial contact from the lawyer is to instill a sense of panic/urgency. If it's a legitimate situation, you will be contacted through more official channels than email.

Was your deliverable limited to the drawings, or was there design services provided by your firm? If the client requested the drawings, as you prepared them, it's on them to provide the calcs.

However, if they requested you provide the DESIGN, then you should have them on file.

RE: Some Legal Advice

My practice is primarily forensic, so I deal with attorneys and litigation on a daily basis. You do no have to provide your calculations unless you have been subpoenaed by the attorney. Further, your calculations are work product and might be protected on behalf of your client. Don't respond. If it goes further, you'll need to get representation, but only if you are named in a suit.

RE: Some Legal Advice

@Ron: It's my understanding, too.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Some Legal Advice

An attorney, in general, would not ask for the design document for nothing, the important thing now is to sort out his intent so you can decide your action and prepare your defense, if necessary. I would simply contact the client to understand the matter, then act accordingly, unless you feel you do have everything available in defending the design. Note, "no contract" does not relieve your responsibility as the engineer on record. Also note, that not every design requires detailed "engineering calculation". Knowing the background for the request may get you off the hook without further complication.

RE: Some Legal Advice

I think you need to give us a hit more here so that we understand what happened.

"There is no written or verbal agreement with the client ..." Errr so how did you agree to do any work and get paid for it? telepathy? sign language?

that doesn't stand up. The basic tenents of a contract are that one party agrees to do do something in return for a consideration (often but not always money). This forms a contract whether you like it or not. One facet of an unwritten contract is that you agree to normal confidentiality proceedings and that the work undertaken belongs to the client and should not be released to third parties without their approval.

Now this work. What exactly did you do?
You say you are "a structural firm and provide CAD drawings for the foundation , floors and roof." Ok, but WHO did the design of the structural elements? YOU? a subcontractor? the client gave you all the dimensions? You just copied them from another project?

Assuming you did the design then you bear responsibility for that design IMHO.
And in this day and age you have no record of them?? Really??

Who is this lawyer representing? The client or someone else?
This sentence from you "Is there any law the requires us to provide calculation to the client regardless there was an agreement or not " implies that the client is after some calculations. I think he is perfectly entitled to ask for them as part of the work you produced.
Now if you say you can't find them, then you are at a bit of a stand off.

I would actually try and reproduce them if I was you, but maybe you could wait for their next move.

If the lawyer is representing someone lese then tell them you need written permission from the client to release them, but in any event you can't find them and they have been deleted after 3 years or whatever period you normally hold calculations for.

But you are not telling us everything here I feel....



Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Some Legal Advice

personally I wouldn't be sending off calculations until you understand the reason why. It could easily result in someone, possibly unqualified , firing a load of queries back at you and eating up your time. Or someone pouring over it and making, possibly, unsubstantiated claims about your competence. if you provided you deliverables at the time you have the right to ask why and ask for money to provide them. (and say if they exist in archives and say you want paying to just to search).

RE: Some Legal Advice

(OP)
Just to clarify and rephrase my question --

Am I legally obliged to provide calculation to the client unless mentioned in the contract . For any yes/no answer , can anyone provide me the section where it is mentioned ?

We did have the calculation but the server reset because the project dates back beyond 5 years.

RE: Some Legal Advice

No, unless a contractual obligation.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Some Legal Advice

You didn't mention the jurisdiction of the project. Is it in the US? What state? Looks like you're in Texas, but since you didn't have a written contract it would probably be subject to the laws of the jurisdiction in which the project took place - but that's probably up for debate by some overpaid attorneys. There is no universal law of engineering, I'm afraid.

Generally speaking, though, no. You are not obligated to provide calculations unless 1) they are part of a contractual obligation (calculations are listed in the mandatory submittals), 2) the local AHJ requires them for review prior to permitting, or 3) you are ordered by a court to turn them over as part of a legal proceeding.

Either way, reach out to your attorney. Or, if you have a good one, your insurance agent/broker. I had a similar issue come up recently. Was contacted by an owner demanding certain items (I did the work for another party), and I found out they had engaged an attorney and were looking to sue my client. So I contacted my insurance company who reviewed everything and then hired a local attorney for me for consultation and pre-case planning so we could develop a strategy IF I got a subpoena. Fortunately I did not (or haven't - they still have a few years...). But that was a few thousand dollars I didn't have to pay out of pocket and won't count against my insurance audit next year.

RE: Some Legal Advice

(OP)
@phamENG
Thanks for the information.
Is there any where wrriten in the codes the following that you stated -
"You are not obligated to provide calculations unless 1) they are part of a contractual obligation (calculations are listed in the mandatory submittals), 2) the local AHJ requires them for review prior to permitting, or 3) you are ordered by a court to turn them over as part of a legal proceeding."



State - TX

RE: Some Legal Advice

Notice that I said "generally." Laws usually aren't written like you seem to want - with a well defined list of everything you must AND need not do. Our law system may seem exhausting at times, but it's far from exhaustive.

Call your lawyer. Asking us for legal advice is like asking a lawyer for medical advice. They may be able to tell you all about how their kidney stones were removed, but they won't be able to diagnose or treat yours.

RE: Some Legal Advice

Kishan,

I think what you're discovering is that there is no "Code" or "section" unless as phamENG says the local AHJ requires them to be submitted long with the plans unless it was included in your contract.

You haven't actually said what sort of conversations happened (I can only assume this is all verbal between you and client) and what you promised to provide to him. Was any of it sealed or signed off by a PE?

Or just write back to the lawyer and say, regardless of what may or may not have been anticipated from the client, the electronic records have been deleted and no back up copy or paper copy exists any more.

I think we are all kind of wondering why, after 5 years, the client is now looking for calculations though and has felt the need to spend money getting a lawyer to write to you....

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Some Legal Advice

Quote (phamENG)

... pre-case planning so we could develop a strategy IF I got a subpoena.

Your obligation to your client has ended on the day you delivered the service/goods he purchased if everything goes without a problem. You can sit and do nothing if you are such confident and do not bother to stand on a trail whether you are the party at fault or not. Otherwise, read the quoted sentences again and follow the suit.

RE: Some Legal Advice

Check your state (assuming this is in the U.S.) regulations on retainage of engineering records. My state only requires that calculations, reports, etc. have to be retained for a minimum of 6 years. Of course, I don't throw anything out, but nonetheless the engineering laws usually have something to say on the subject.

RE: Some Legal Advice

Six years ??? ... Interesting ...

This does bring up the issue of engineering records and how long they should be retained by any firm .... My vote is three years

IMHO, any engineering firm should always address the "calculation issue" in the contract documents ... There should be a seperate fee charged to the client for copies of calulations... the originals should NEVER be forwarded to the client.

The client should be told that it is standard practice to discard ALL records after three years .... If the engineering firm actually does this, is , of course, another matter.

By way of comparison .... Every state has a Statute of Limitations for Civil Matters ...

Typically 3 to 6 years ... In the good old USA, 6.12 years is the average

"A statute of limitations is a law that outlines how long a person has to file a lawsuit. The law sets the maximum amount of time that a party may initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense, civil or criminal. In civil law systems, this is known as a prescriptive period."

https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/s...

Anybody else ???

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: Some Legal Advice

"..in the contract documents.." IS the missing thing here.

We still don't know what kishan actually agreed with the client by means of verbal communication or telepathy or...

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Some Legal Advice

Quote (MJCronin)

The client should be told that it is standard practice to discard ALL records after three years ....

Does that matter if the engineer and his client are facing "Personal Injury or Death" lawsuit? How long is the statute of limitations for an engineer to rid of his liability, and no longer be required to provide documents to demonstrate he did no wrong?

RE: Some Legal Advice

...and a caution for liability insurance. In some jurisdictions if you have a potential claim and you notify your insurer, this can be added to your 'record' and, even though it goes nowhere, can cause your premiums to increase.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Do you feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Some Legal Advice

dik - true...I'm glad I don't have an insurance company like that. My carrier wants people to tell them when problems are coming because they know a little pre-planning and leg work up front can diffuse a situation and lower the overall liability. So they encourage people to come forward sooner rather than later by providing services in that area that 1) don't count toward claim deductibles and 2) don't count against you for rate increases.

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