This is an article by John M. Lowe, Jr., P.E., speaker for our upcoming CEC session Failure Analysis and the Professional Claims Process, which you can find here.
Every design project manager, construction contractor, and client optimistically want their projects to be designed and constructed flawlessly. Sometimes, that is the happy outcome. However, it seems that almost as frequently as not, something goes wrong — a failure occurs, and a meticulous search begins to answer the “why” question. We call this process “Failure Analysis.” The overarching question is, “Did the failure occur as the result of a design or construction error or some combination thereof?”
The search usually begins with a detailed “hindsight” review of the design process by the designer. What could have been overlooked that may have resulted in this failure? Then the process moves to establishing how the construction was carried out, followed by comparing the “as designed” to the “as constructed” situations. Occasionally, this process definitively identifies the cause of the failure and the process ends. This, of course, is the exception. There are almost always conflicting views of the validity of conclusions reached by designers and contractors. When this happens, a professional liability claim for relief from the costs associated with the failure may be filed by the client. When this occurs, the world of the designer is seriously disrupted while preparing a defense against the claim. Developing information needed for reaching an equitable settlement of the claim takes precedence over almost all other activities.
Neither the designer, the contractor, nor the client have a budget for dealing with a claim. The effort expended resolving the claim is usually painful and costly. Further, and of equal importance, managing the claim is a major distraction from time and energy needed to carefully execute the next project.
During the webinar, two case histories will be reviewed. One resulted in a determination that the failure was the result of a construction deficiency. The other was determined to have been a combination of a design deficiency and a construction oversight. The client determined what it believed was an equitable settlement, awarding some, but not all, of the claim to be paid by the designer to the contractor. Lessons learned are provided for both projects.
Next will be a short course entitled “Professional Liability 101,” followed by ways to minimize the probability of having a professional liability claim and, should one occur, how to best manage the claim.
About the Author:
John is a 1961 Civil Engineering graduate from the University of Florida. Following three years of military service as an Army pilot, he enjoyed 46 years as a consulting engineer. He was involved in both private and public projects as project manager, principal-in-charge, or office manager. He has been registered and practiced in FL, GA, SC, CA, and OR. In 2010, he retired from full-time employment and formed Lowe Consulting, LLC to begin giving back to the profession by sharing what he had learned about contracting for professional services. Initially, he shared this knowledge as a guest speaker at local universities and professional society meetings. To facilitate getting this information to a wider audience, he wrote and self-published a book entitled, “A Guide to Managing Engineering and Architectural Design Services Contracts – What Every Project Manager Needs to Know.” The book is available in e-book and printed form at Amazon.com and as an audio book at the EMI website.
If you’re interested in your firm possibly joining the Civil Engineering Collective, please contact us here or call us at 800-920-4007 ext. 800.
I hope you’ll join us.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success