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The Professional Engineer's Duty of care Article · September 2008
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Journal of the Institution of Engineers Mauritius The Professional Engineer’s Duty of care D K Hurreeram and J Soobarah [email protected]
‘Avant propos’ Membership of the Institution places an obligation upon the engineer to conduct himself/herself in accordance with the Institution’s Code of Ethics, which includes its Fundamental Tenets. Whilst the phrase ‘duty of care” is not specifically contained in the IEM Code, Professional Engineers will certainly see in that Code a reminder that they owe “a duty of care” to their employers, clients, the society, and of course to themselves. Those readers who have accessed the website of the Council of Registered Professional Engineers (CRPE) and have perused the “Code of Ethics” under the DOWNLOAD Section, would certainly have noted that at the end of the document there is an additional attribute termed Supplementary Behavioural Code: Duty of care, which reads “Engineers shall exercise duty of care in the discharge of their professional obligations while refusing to indulge in or condone unfair competition and practices”. CRPE has re-arranged, with minor editorial refinement, the Code of Ethics of IEM to illustrate alignment and common objectives with the Engineering Council (UK) Guidelines on Code of Ethics. The IEM Code is known to have been adapted from those of various professional engineering institutions of international standing. 1.
Professional Indemnity, Professional Liability, Insurance, etc. are words which have since long found their way into the engineer’s profession. The engineer, like any other person in trade or business, offers his/her services (i.e. his/her learning, knowledge, skills, experience and ingenuity as well as the resources he/she can muster and/or have available at his/her command) to potential customers. The latter may be the Government or any organisation or individual. The beneficiary of the services being the customer and invariably the community, - he or she, as the case may be, receives the consideration placed on the service offered, mostly in cash, and sometimes, partly in kind. Society, through its legislators, steps in to ensure that those who are engaged in certain occupational activities of a nature that put them at risk of injury and even death, and others (i.e. the public) who could suffer any form of prejudice such as a loss, damage, or injury, or even disability or death, (attributed directly or indirectly to the activities concerned), can obtain prompt relief, albeit limited, in the form of compensation or other consideration from an Insurer after the occurrence. Such relief is not expected to affect the rights and obligations of any of the parties concerned towards any or all of the remaining parties who could separately ascertain and agree on the extent of loss, damage or liability damage they have suffered, and claim them in the appropriate forum for such issues.
The Engineer can’t go wrong. He needs no protection against liability! WRONG!
The engineer is very meticulous when it comes to ensuring that the interests of his/her clients are safeguarded against defects, faults, and errors of omission and commission that could end up in operational losses for those clients, or their becoming liable for losses and damages that third parties. In the course of their practice they are required to identify any risk to the safety, welfare and health of their clients that their solutions or any part thereof may represent for their clients and other parties served by their clients, including society. They are required to evaluate the probability of occurrence of the unwanted scenario, and, if deemed necessary, review their solutions so as bring the risk level to the minimum considered reasonable and acceptable by Law and Society, in conformity with best practices for the nature of the operations concerned. In their final equation risks to life must remain remote or non existent with operational safeguards in place. They are familiar with Conditions of Contract relating to Engineering Works. They are certainly well acquainted with all those clauses that have been inserted to enable the timely and smooth execution of the works and administration of the contract, and perhaps more so with those clauses that give them power to exercise authority in matters of unacceptable workmanship, execution delays, certification of payments, withholding payments, amendments to scope of works or to specifications, approval of variations, claims, rates, issuance of notices, etc. However there are times when doubts arise as to whether the engineer has adequately safeguarded himself/herself against possible liabilities that his/her client could lay at his/her doorstep on account of some business loss or damage which the client suffers and for which he blames the Engineer. The Client could hold the Engineer responsible for delay in execution, cost escalation, poor workmanship, non-compliance with the requirements of his Brief, structural collapse of his building or part thereof, etc. The following extract from a circular letter issued by one particular insurer, which shall not be named, (and which, in any case, is similar to what obtains in marketing brochures of major Insurance companies whose portfolios include insurance services of the nature exemplified in the extract) throws light on what the Insurer believes could go wrong with the services provided by professionals: “If you are in a line of work that involves dealing with the public, you can be sued for professional negligence or for failure to provide the quality of service promised. For instance, a doctor with a private practice can be taken to court for erring or malpractice during an operation. Liability Insurance provides protection against errors and omissions of the insured that result in a loss tom others (in insurance parlance, the “third party”). It reimburses the insured for all damages payable, as decided by a court of law, as well as legal costs incurred in fighting the case. Professional Liability Cover is a must... This cover is of use to doctors, architects, engineers, lawyers, chartered accountants, consultants and other professionals.”
The objectives of the authors of this paper is to put emphasis on the duty of care that engineers need to exercise in the discharge of their professional practice. We will recognise, however, that sometimes things can and do go wrong, - for which many reasons can be advanced but not necessarily admitted. When they do, and that fingers are pointed towards the engineer, the latter will thank his/her stars that he/she has a valid insurance policy against potential liabilities. The policy will not “save” him/her from employers, peers, the disciplinary board of his/her professional engineering institution, or from a Court of Justice in relation to any error of omission or commission, professional negligence and/or professional incompetence, which in the eyes of the Law constitutes an offence. 3. Some Legal Cases It is proposed to bring to our readers’ attention some issues that came up in some past cases in the UK and elsewhere where the professional’s duty of care or lack thereof was the central issue. We warn our readers that some of the cases may still be subject of an appeal by one party or the other, such that the conclusions given may not be the last we have heard of it. We should perhaps add that any reader interested in Jurisprudence should look elsewhere. 3(A) The Professional’s Duty to Warn Clients of Potential Hazards. John B Molloy LLB (Hons), BSc (Hons), FHKIS, FRICS, MCIArb, FInstCES, RPS (QS) writing in the HKIS Newsletter 9(10) of November 2000 on the subject “Quantity Surveyors as Project Managers” highlights the case of a food factory (Pride Valley Foods in North East England) that was destroyed by fire in December 1995. That company specialised in baking pitta and nan breads. They had contracted out the expansion of their factory to Hall & Partners, a firm of quantity surveyors and estate agents, whose responsibilities included the provision of the full range of services from inception to design, construction, commissioning and hand-over. An appendix to the letter of appointment contained the details, which included preparation of a schedule of employer's requirements and specifications, development of these into a design brief, preparation of outline sketches and consideration of materials to be selected, all of which would form the Employer's Requirements against which contractors would submit competitive, design and build, tenders. The Clients (Pride valley) were keen to keep costs down, while meeting statutory obligations in respect of fire, safety, hygiene, etc, and instructed Hall & Partners accordingly. When their factory was destroyed by fire Pride Valley took their Project Managers to Court, alleging negligence by the latter. During Court proceedings, Expert evidence agreed that the fire had developed at the bottom of a flue serving the pitta bread line due to a build up of cooking deposits in the flue, and that from there it spread to the expanded polystyrene wall panels which rapidly spread the fire through the entire building. Pride Valley claimed that the fire was caused by Hall & Partner's negligence in failing to discharge their contractual duty of care as Project Managers, and in particular their failure to warn them against the use of expanded polystyrene panels. It was their view that if they had received such advice then the fire would have been prevented or its spreading limited. Pride Valley had
called in Architect as expert witness to say what the latter would have done as project manager in similar circumstances. Hall & Partners denied negligence and maintained that they had given such advice. They maintained that in their verbal discussions with the Clients they had warned that the expanded polystyrene panels carried with them a fire risk. They called in a Quantity Surveyor to give expert witness as to what the Quantity Surveyor would have done (as project manager) in similar circumstances. In the absence of an established professional procedure on Project Management the Judge considered that the overriding consideration had to be, not what another project manager would have done in the circumstances, but what the Project Manager had expressly agreed to do in the terms of his consultancy agreement. He concluded that whilst the consultancy agreement did not require Hall & Partners to undertake detailed design (because the main contract was design and build), they were nonetheless required to undertake a design brief and draft appropriate employer’s requirements. These duties included specifying the materials to be used. This implied a duty of care to advise upon the risks of fire and the dangers which existed with such materials. In the absence of written evidence as to the advice given by the Project Manager the Judge considered that as a professional firm they failed to expressly provide such warnings in writing, particularly as there was a large amount of correspondence on other matters. The Project Manager had a contractual duty of care to Pride Valley to have warned them of the dangers of using expanded polystyrene panels and thus were in breach of this duty for failing to do so. However the Judge also considered evidence that Pride Valley had continually made it clear that they wanted the cheapest building legally possible. Would the Clients have heeded that advice if tendered ? The Judge considered the Client’s attitude on another issue where a proposal was put to Pride Valley for the construction of a firewall between the production area and offices. The Client has rejected that advice on grounds that this was not a requirement of the relevant regulations. The Judge therefore concluded that Pride Valley would not have taken their advice even if it had been given, and rejected Pride Valley's claim. 3(B) Compliance with Regulations, yet still Liable In this second example we refer to Sahib Foods Limited and Co-operative Insurance Society Ltd (the Claimants in the case) vs Paskin Kyriades Sands (the defendants, being a firm of Architects which was retained for a refurbishment assignment in 1995) and which was pleaded before the England and Wales High Court (Technology and Construction Court). Judgement was delivered in March 2003. Our information is taken from website: [http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/TCC/2003/142.html]. The owners of the food factory, Sahib Foods Ltd (the Claimants) held that the firm of Architects were in part responsible and liable for a fire that destroyed most of their factory (in January 1998). Co-Operative Insurance Society Ltd joined in because they had contracted to buy the concern from Sahib Foods Ltd. The Defendants (the firm of Architects) on the other hand denied liability and, in turn, alleged contributory negligence on the part of the Claimants. They also
denied any duty towards Sahib Foods since they were not retained by Sahib Foods, and had no contract with them, but by a party who happened to be a Shareholder of Sahib Foods. During the proceedings expert witnesses agreed that if the enclosure (known as veg prep cook enclosure) had been constructed so as to contain a fire for one hour, then the fire would not have spread outside the enclosure. (Fire-fighters would have reached the scene). This implied that the enclosure should have been designed and constructed with (i) walls and ceilings panels of noncombustible nature (such as mineral wool), (ii) fire resisting doors, or automatic shutters of the appropriate specification, and (iii) automatic fire shutters in the ventilation ducts where they crossed to other areas of the factory. Expert Witnesses also agreed that had the veg prep area had been protected with non-combustible panels then despite the concurrence of a number of negligent acts and omissions on the part of the claimants, the factory would not have burnt down. During the trial, which was restricted to liability, the defendants came up with the following arguments, though not necessary in the order set out hereinafter or in these words: (i)
They had no contract with the Claimants; there was no written contract; and there was no letter of retainer, and had no duty to do anything that was not required of them under their contract. (iii) What was known to the architect (in respect of risks of fire) was known to the client, who were made aware of the risks (v) They had carried out a Risk Assessment, and during that exercise the Client stated that a bratt pan (installed in veg prep enclosure) will not be used for deep fat frying; under these circumstances they said a reasonably competent architect would have concluded that it would not be necessary to enclose the room containing the bratt pan in fire resisting construction. (vi) They had complied with building regulations. (vii) The Clients were responsible for the fire On the basis of evidence presented, including the Architect’s own witnesses, the Judge considered that the Architects had accepted Sahib as the client and were retained by them: they provided drawings to Sahib; they submitted the necessary statutory applications for permissions in the name of Sahib; they sent fee notes for services to Sahib, and were paid by Sahib. As to the defendants’ argument about having no duty to do anything that they were not required to do under their contract, the Judge considered that it did not stand since there was, in his view, no contract with Sahib or the Shareholder. As to the Architect’s argument that they had it from the Clients that the bratt pan (whose oil caught fire) will not be used for deep frying the Judge observed that “if something is forbidden, it follows that it can be done and that some people will do it.”. The Judge considered that it could be that the Architects would not have known what circumstances were required to cause the fire to ignite the EPS panels, but they knew that if the fire spread to the EPS panels then there was likelihood of it spreading rapidly through the factory. In view of the gravity of the potential consequences, it was the Judge’s view that the architects should have found out and eliminated
the possibility of those circumstances before deciding against the modest cost of using flameproof panels. The Judge found the defendants were negligent and in breach of their duty towards Sahib. What about the Court’s view regarding the standard of the duty of care that the defendants (the architects) owed to their clients? The Judge referred to citations and the statement of the law made by Webster J. in Wimpey v. Poole  (the Bolam test) and to Whitehouse v. Jordan : the guidance from these were that in a situation which involves the use of some special skill, the test should be the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising that skill or professing to have that special skill. Essentially, a professional man who has knowledge, but acts or fails to act in way which, having that knowledge he ought reasonably to foresee that damage would arise, then, if the other aspects of duty are present, he would be liable in negligence. The Judge found the defendants in breach of duty of care. The defendants had specified use of EPS panels which, in previous widely publicised and disastrous fires, had failed to adequately contain fires. There was evidence that that knowledge was within the profession, but the Judge looked at the actual knowledge of the defendants. Expert architects called in by the defendants agreed that in 1994 some architects would have been aware of the combustible nature of the core of steel faced EPS panels; it was their view, however, that an ordinarily competent architect might not have known of the performance of such panels in a serious fire. The Court observed that it was important to emphasise that the knowledge was not simply the knowledge that EPS will burn, but that (i) the steel faced EPS panels will delaminate in a big fire, (ii) the EPS core will then rapidly degrade, and (iii) the melted cores will transmit fire one to another very rapidly. That was what had happened in many recent fires. Further, it was also known that there was available a reasonably priced fire-resistant alternative which specialist sub-contractors were currently recommending for all cooking areas. There was evidence to show that the defendants’ attention was drawn to the use of polystyrene core panels in areas where cooking or frying will take place, and that a suggestion was even made on an alternative (non-combustible panels) for such locations, including information about occurrences of previous fires where the non-combustible panels had retarded the progress of fires by about 2 hours. Defendants were made aware that “all polystyrene and polyethurenes panels were combustible”. It was told in court that such knowledge had been around for 10 to 15 years. The architects had carried on with the EPS specification for cooking areas even after receiving the information about the risk. We believe that Engineers (and of course architects and others) should also do well to bear in mind the view held by the Judge, in reference to the architects’ argument that “there was nothing known to the architect that was not known to the client”. We wish to highlight the ethics therein and not the legalistic aspect: “A competent architect does not present a design that he knows to be deficient in an important respect and then discuss with the client whether the deficiency should be removed. It would also be unacceptable that an architect presents such a design and say that he/she did not need to tell the client about the deficiency because the client already knew that such a feature was required.
Take a simple example. An architect designs a house as a residence for a client who happens to be a surveyor and forgets to require a damp-proof course under a parapet wall. If after construction the client complains, it is no answer for the architect to say, "Well you knew about the need for the damp proof course as well as I did". The architect is employed to use his own skill and judgment. “ The Judge held that the Client has no duty to examine the architect’s designs and tell the architect where he has gone wrong, even if the Client happens to have a particular skill. The defendants knew the risk, and there was no evidence that they had passed the knowledge to the Client and that the Client agreed to proceed regardless. No evidence was adduced to show that the defendants wrote to the Clients proposing amendments to design in view of the risks. The Court considered that even that should not have been necessary “The plans should have been so drawn up in the first place that amendment was not required.” The Judge had retained the Claimants point that had the Architects made a case for the extra expenditure in view of the perceived risk in relation to location of the fire, the Clients would have authorised the expenditure.. The Court paid tribute to the defendants for their design which provided the required escape routes and which contributed to the absence of loss of life or personal injury in this disastrous fire. However, that was not the point of this litigation: it was about property and money. If the defendants had done their duty, the veg prep cook room would largely have been destroyed but the rest of the factory would have survived. The Judge had also found the Client had contributory negligence by the inappropriate use of the room in which the fire started. This element permitted the reduction of the architects’ liability, but did not absolve them. 3(C)
The Bolam Test
Reference has been made to the “Bolam test” in the previous example. We wish to throw some light on that “test”. We have drawn from a Lecture by Mr K Shanmugam Senior Counsel, Partner of Allen and Gledhill and Member of Parliament delivered on 4 Nov 2001 at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Theatrette [ 008 : 2002 Vol 43(1) Singapore Med Journal This criteria gets its name from the Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) 1 WLR 582. It is applied to determine whether a doctor has discharged his or her standard of care in the management of the patient. It is evident that it applies equally to all professionals. It is the standard (of care) that the ordinary skilled man exercises and which skill he professes to have. It is not implied that, for a doctor, he has to be the best. Courts are reluctant to deal with situations where each party produces expert witness as to what the expert would have done in similar circumstances, for example hospitals calling in others doctors of similar standing and exercising a particular skill to show what they would have done for a patient in similar situations, and hopefully to win over the Judge and thus ward-off claims. Courts are more inclined to impose their own opinion on the matter, and adhere to the principles set out in Bolam, which test establishes whether there has been negligence or not: Courts will ascertain
(i) Whether the doctor owed a duty of care to his patient. This is established upon acceptance of the patient by the doctor. (ii) Whether there has been a breach of that duty of care. This is established if patient proves that that the doctor’s action was lesser that the standard expected of him. The elements of the Bolam test are as follows: the doctor should exercise a standard of skill that would be exercised by an ordinary and competent doctor who exercises in the concerned field and professes to have that skill. (It is not required that he be the best in that field). Further, the doctor who action under the circumstances is considered to be proper at that time by a responsible body of medical opinion should not held guilty of negligence on the basis that another competent professional body of opinion would adopt a different technique. (iii) Whether the breach of duty caused or contributed to the injury. We advise our members to read the full Lecture of Mr Shanmugam to appreciate how the Courts in different jurisdictions determine whether or not there is negligence and whether there has been a breach of duty of care. One conclusion that seems to surface is that a Court of Law may disregard expert opinion and impose its own views if the expert opinion fails to stand to logical analysis. We are told that the Bolam test was put in its proper perspective by Lord Browne Wilkinson: “The Test does not allow a doctor or hospital to avoid liability for negligent treatment merely because there is evidence from a number of medical experts to the effect that the treatment accorded to a patient accords with what other doctors might have done. The Court had to be satisfied that such opinion has a logical basis.” The full lecture by Mr Shanmugam entitled “Testing the Bolam test: Consequences of Recent Developments” is published at < www.sma.org.sg/smj/4301/4301l1.pdf >
Is it Different in the US?
Our lay reading of some material drawn California Personal Injury Defense Law, accessed through and doing a search with keywords “Professional negligence” suggests that the consideration of “professional negligence” is more or less similar to that of Courts in the UK. Professional negligence is a tort issue rather than a criminal act. However a professional may be charged with having committed a criminal act if the act (negligence or other professional misconduct) committed by him is considered an offence under Law. Convicted in a Court of Law may imply fine and/or imprisonment. Besides this conviction of the guilty party, any other party which has suffered injury or loss and who can prove that the injury or loss resulted from the professional’s action (or inaction) can initiate action through the Courts for compensation to be awarded to him. We are given to understand that the burden of proof in a tort case is lower than the proof required in criminal law cases. Still, in a tort action, it must be shown that there is a “preponderance of the evidence” favouring a guilty verdict. A proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt (as in a criminal case) is not a necessity. Readers will appreciate that a party who gets acquitted of criminal charges can still be found liable in a civil lawsuit. The US Laws distinguish between Negligence, intentional misconduct, and strict liability; - each attribute having its own degree of fault that a plaintiff must prove if he is to obtain compensation.
As in the UK Courts, successfully proving negligence implies proving that the person being sued committed the act acted with lesser duty of care than a reasonable competent person would have done in such situation; that is, it was below a reasonable expectation in the circumstances. In contrast with negligence, “intentional misconduct”, which allows the Plaintiff to recover punitive damages, is a deliberate action resulting in an injury to another person or damage another person's property. In this case the Plaintiff does not have to compare the defendant's actions with those of a reasonable person, but is required to show that the defendant intended his or her actions which resulted in the injury or damage/loss. The issue of Strict Liability arises when the fault relates to very dangerous activities, such as the demolition of a building. Here a person who gets hurt can sue for damages. He/she will not have to prove negligence or intentional misconduct. Professional Negligence will be implied when the professional performs his or her duties improperly, either out of ignorance or carelessness in the performance of their services to their employers or clients. Since the Conditions of Contract relating to any works sets out in fairly detailed manner the duties of the engineer (or for the architect, for that matter) then whether or not there has been professional negligence would depend on the interpretation of the contractual conditions under which services are provided. Engineers may become liable for the engineering design and construction of a building if the structure is proved to be unsafe or unsound any time after the design and construction. This may happen during a review of the design and not necessarily on collapse or failure of the construction. Likewise an engineer or architect who surveys a structure on account of a prospective buyer and certifies it as structurally safe and sound would be guilty of professional negligence if it was subsequently found that the building needed structural repairs or reinforcement. Engineers and architects invariably include in their conditions of contracts clauses on Dispute Resolution which provide alternative mechanisms for seeking and obtaining compensation thus avoiding being dragged in Court where the rules of the game are quite different, as would be the likely consequences for them if found negligent. We recall here that the standard of care against which an engineer's or architect's actions are generally judged is the standard to which another ordinary person acting in place of the defendant and exercising reasonable skill and professing to have that skill would have performed.
Some more from the USA
Among the many other cases available on the internet we found the paper by Joshua B Kardon on the subject The Structural Engineer's Standard of Care , presented at the OEC International Conference on Ethics in Engineering and Computer Science, March 1999 very instructive, to which we now refer. The author is a practicing structural engineer with over 26 years of experience, and owns the firm, Joshua B. Kardon + Company Structural Engineers, Berkeley, California. He has been a guest lecturer in undergraduate and graduate courses at UC Berkeley, and at Stanford University, on the subject of engineering failures, professional negligence, engineering judgment, and the
standard of care. His paper describes some engineering failures with which the author become familiar in the course of his practice as a consultant and expert in construction defects lawsuits, and other engineering failures, including the Hyatt Regency Kansas City walkway collapse and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It is not intended to go into any of these in any great details. Since this paper is concerned with Duty of Care that engineers owe to their Clients, we will draw on the minimum from its introductory paragraph to reinforce the concept of Standard of Care which has run through this article. J B Kardon brings out the following: (i) From Paxton v. County of Alameda (1953), a definition of “Standard of Care” - “that level or quality of service ordinarily provided by other normally competent practitioners of good standing in that field, contemporaneously providing similar services in the same locality and under the same circumstances.” (ii) From City of Mounds View v. Walijarvi (Minn. 1978): An engineer's service need not be perfect. Since the engineer, when providing professional services, is using judgment gained from experience and learning, and is usually providing those services in situations where a certain amount of unknown or uncontrollable factors are common, some level of error in those services is allowed. (iii) From Gagne v. Bertran (1934): When you hire an engineer you "purchase service, not insurance," so you are not justified in expecting perfection or infallibility, only "reasonable care and competence". It will be appreciated therefore that any injury or damage caused by an engineer’s mistake is not sufficient establish professional liability on the part of the engineer. As in the UK Courts, for professional liability to exist, the Plaintiff must prove the services were provided in a professionally negligent manner, that is below the standard of care of the profession. “When one hires an engineer, one accepts the risk, and the liability, of that professional making a mistake similar to mistakes other normally competent engineers make, using reasonable diligence and their best judgment” writes Mr J B Kardon.. He adds “The standard of care is not what an engineer should have done in a particular instance, it is not what others say an engineer would do, or what others say they themselves would have done, it is just what competent engineers actually did in similar circumstances.” Readers will appreciate that within the limits of our understanding of the way in which the law operates in the UK and US they seem to agree as to when the engineer is professionally negligent. We are not aware of the position of Mauritian Courts on such an issue, and have no reason to believe it would rule differently. It should be recognised however that the Courts will still hear expert testimony as to the experts’ view of the standard of care expected under the circumstances and the defendant’s actual performance. J.B Kardon makes reference to and quotes a Bench Approved Jury Instruction (BAJI, 1986) which reads: "In performing professional services for a client, a (structural engineer) has the duty to have that degree of learning and skill ordinarily possessed by reputable (structural engineers), practicing in the same or similar locality and under similar circumstances.
It is the structural engineer's further duty to use the care and skill ordinarily used in like cases by reputable members of the (structural engineering) profession practicing in the same or similar locality under similar circumstances, and to use reasonable diligence and (the structural engineer's) best judgment in the exercise of professional skill and in the application of learning, in an effort to accomplish the purpose for which (the structural engineer) was employed. A failure to fulfill any such duty is negligence"
The Collapse of the Hyatt Regency Walkway (Kansas City) Of the numerous cases of failure to which reference has been made by J.B. Kardon we pick up the collapse of walkway at Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City in July 1981, and which resulted in the death of 114 persons and more than 200 injured. The Ceiling rods supporting the 2nd Floor and 4th Floor walkways had collapsed on to the First floor Atrium below. (The Third Floor walkway, which was offset, was not affected). Investigations of the failures attributed negligence to a structural engineer who reviewed and approved a change (made by a contractor for constructibility reasons) in the detail of a connection of the walkway beam to the suspender. We are reminded of the following lessons that the investigations brought up: (1) A good design implies attention to the constructibility of detail; (2) Changes made in the field must be communicated to the designer; (3) Shop drawing and change order review is important, and shouldn't be performed without the participation of an experienced practitioner; (4) The smallest detail can cause a major problem; and (5) In practice, the consequences of an error can have a bearing on the evaluation of negligence. Conclusion The cases and discussions presented in the paper was an attempt to put forward the necessity for exercising Duty of Care as an integral part of the engineering profession. The examples quoted clearly illustrate the level of responsibility expected of engineers when it comes to issues associated to design, health and safety, construction, an/or supervision of work. Working within the governing fundamentals of the Code of Ethics largely contributes towards engineers delivering, in line with expectations of society at large.
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