By Alexander Barthet

An engineering firm developed and sealed a set of plans for a county road. The drawings and specifications provided for speed limits, warning signs, and pavement markings. At some point, the county decided to incorporate several changes to the design and did so without any input from the engineering firm. Instead, the modified plans bore the signature and seal of the county’s in-house engineering department.

When a fatal accident occurred on the road, the decedent’s estate sued both the county and the engineering firm. The engineering firm suggested it couldn’t be held liable since it had been replaced and its plans were modified. A good argument, but the court disagreed. It held that an engineer’s liability would not be extinguished when a successor engineer signs and seals a subsequent set of design plans. No statute or rule allows an original engineer to escape liability under these circumstances, even if those new plans supersede the original engineer’s plans. Amazing but true.

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