When a design professional stamps, seals, or signs a document, a number of parties, not just the client, foreseeably rely on the information conveyed in that document. If the reliance is justified and the information is false, current legal precedent allows a third party to recover from the design professional for negligent misrepresentation.
A Massachusetts appellate court recently ruled that an engineer who stamped a set of drawings for a constructor did not mislead the project owner into believing the engineer would monitor construction for compliance with the building code. The express language of an “Engineer Disclaimer,” printed below the stamp, limited the scope of justifiable reliance.
An email from the engineer to the constructor seemed to expand the engineer’s responsibilities on the project, but the email had been sent to the constructor alone. The project owner, who was forwarded the email by the constructor, could not justifiably rely on the communication.
Another case in this issue involves responsibility for field verification of dimensions in an existing structure. In a dispute between a prime contractor and a subcontractor, a federal appeals court ruled that the responsibility had been assigned to the sub. Contractor approval of subcontractor shop drawings did not relieve the sub of the duty.
The third case addresses a rarely used legal doctrine – the government’s constructive waiver of a specification. The government’s knowledge of noncompliant work and acquiescence to the deviation, combined with the contractor’s detrimental reliance, waived the government’s right to enforce the specification against the contractor.