ENGINEER SUED FOR REFUSING TO ALTER REPORT DISMISSED FROM CASE

I recently had the pleasure of giving my client the good news that he was dismissed from litigation “with prejudice.”  This meant that he was out, for good.  The homeowner that sued him could not re-file the claim against him after trying to find evidence to support her claim.

The homeowner bought the house as a “tear down.”  However, her project turned more expensive and complicated than she had anticipated.  After firing the first contractor, she engaged a new general contractor.  That general decided to hire an engineer to monitor progress on the project.

As the homeowner believed the second contractor also did not perform well, she terminated him.  She then demanded that the engineer alter his report to reflect her own view about the second general contractor’s work on the project.  If he refused, she would sue the engineer.  The engineer responded that the report was accurate, and he refused to alter it, even to avoid being sued.   Eventually the project ended up in litigation, and the homeowner sued three of several contractors she had hired on her project, and the engineer.

As they say, “Happiness is not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.”

In this case, however, the engineer had no contract with the homeowner, and had not designed the plans and specifications for the project.  Those recommendations that the engineer had made after the homeowner expressed her unhappiness had been rejected, because they would have required even further investment in the project.  The engineer engaged me to defend him in the suit.

The engineer argued that he had no contractual duty to the homeowner, as his client was the second general contractor.  He argued further that the real reason he was sued was not because he did anything wrong on the project, but because he had refused to cave to the homeowner’s pressure to alter his reports.  The engineer maintained that his reports were accurate and therefore he had no duty to alter them.  Accurate reports could not form the basis of any misrepresentation claim, either.

After filing the motion for summary judgment, the homeowner’s attorney acknowledged the complete lack of evidence supporting the claim against my client.  Although a year to defend an unwarranted suit was too long (the plaintiff changed attorneys three times), the final result was complete and total vindication for the engineer.

I am very happy to have been able to provide this result to my engineer client.  The cost to defend the litigation for over a year, including multiple sets of discovery, a site visit, and the drafting of the motion for summary judgment,  came to less than $10,000.  While that seems like a lot to an engineer that was paid far less than that on the project, his reputation and professional integrity emerged intact.  Sometimes, happiness IS whether you win!