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Pitfalls In the Distribution of Computerized Information
By Paul M. Lurie, Esquire


Computerized project information has the potential to increase the speed by which designs can be completed. (This may or may not make the practice of engineering more profitable.) However, electronic transmittals by way of project websites and electronic mail also increase the probability of a contractor relying on fragments of information that does not fully represent the design intent. This in turn can cause construction errors that can be costly to remedy, lead to uncompensated professional time and even result in a claim against your firm.

This problem can be compounded when the request for design information comes directly from a general or trade contractor and not from the prime professional or owner with whom you have your contractual relationship. Maintaining the sanctity of these contractual relationships is an essential part of loss prevention. In many states you cannot be sued for economic type losses by parties with whom you do not have a direct contractual relationship.

We suggest you consider the following transmittal disclaimer in your electronic transmittals when responding to requests for information by an entity with which you do not have a contract.

"At the request of our client, as its agent, and for your convenience, we are transmitting to you the attached information. This transmittal is subject to the following conditions to which you agree by accepting these terms on a reply to this message or using the information in any manner, including but not limited, to copying or using the information for reference.

  1. This information being transmitted is an interim document, not a Contract Document, and is not to be relied upon as final or complete.
  2. In preparing your Work, all as required by the Contract Documents, you remain responsible for coordination of this information with the permit documents and field conditions.
  3. If you discover any errors or omissions in the information, you will promptly notify us so that we can make any necessary corrections.
  4. These files have been generated by AutoCad Release 14. We are not responsible for any errors caused by the transmission, your software or your computer systems.
  5. The information is not to be used on other projects without our consent." Of course, this same type of disclaimer can also be used with non-electronic transmittals. When working as a consulting engineer for another prime professional, it would be wise to alert your client to the problem so that it can also adopt this procedure.

Paul M. Lurie is a senior partner in the Construction Group of the law firm of Schiff Hardin & Waite in Chicago (ph: 312-258-5660 or e-mail: plurie@schiffhardin.com). He is general counsel to many architectural and engineering firms and a regular contributor to STRUCTURE.

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