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Razon, Jan Joevil A.

EC51FC1

ECEC 523 ECE Laws, Contracts and Ethics


Engr. Samuel Sabile

CASE PROBLEM NO. 4


ED TURNER AWARDED $285,000 IN LEGAL FEES MALPRACTICE LAWSUIT
Main issues:
A. Threat to the integrity of the engineering profession; fight for the Principle of Responsible Charge.
B. Fight for the autonomy of professional engineers in exercising their judgment.
Violated Laws:
Principle of Responsible Charge
Responsible charge is defined as the degree of control an engineer is required to exercise over engineering
decisions made over which the engineer provides supervisory direction and control authority. The engineer
in responsible charge should be capable of answering relevant questions about the decisions made to
demonstrate reasonable knowledge of the project. They should also be completely in charge of and
satisfied with the final product. They possess the authority to reject or approve at their discretion.
Additionally, the engineer should have personal knowledge of technical abilities of his personnel. Finally, by
affixing one's seal, they accept full responsibility for the work product, hence the term "responsible charge".
The concept of responsible charge is found in multiple engineering Codes of Ethics.
NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers: Rules of Practice - II.2.b. Engineers shall not affix their
signatures to any plans or documents dealing with subject matter in which they lack
competence, nor to any plan or document not prepared under their direction and control
NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers: Professional Obligations - III.2.b. Engineers shall not
complete, sign, or seal plans and/or specifications that are not in conformity with applicable
engineering standards. If the client or employer insists on such unprofessional conduct, they
shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from further service on the project
Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers: Competency for Assignments - Use of Seal on
Documents. A Registrant shall affix his signature and seal only to plans or documents under
his responsible charge
As you can see from the above examples, stated implicitly or explicitly, responsible charge is an important
concept in engineering ethics.

Razon, Jan Joevil A.


EC51FC1

ECEC 523 ECE Laws, Contracts and Ethics


Engr. Samuel Sabile

Actions:
A. Turner took legal action, seeking damages for wrongful termination. The first case was dismissed
because his lawyer filed the lawsuit too late and on the wrong forms. The city counter-sued, and Turner
settled out of court, because the settlement would be less than the legal fees. Turner then sued that lawyer
for malpractice in 1999. In order to prove malpractice, he had to demonstrate to the jury that he would have
won the case if the paperwork had been properly submitted. This second trial was successful and he was
awarded a judgment of $290,000 on June 23, 2000.
B. After losing his first case, Turner's malpractice suit attracted the attention of professional engineering
societies. The American Engineering Alliance (AEA) in particular rallied support from engineering state
boards and other professional societies. When presenting his case to the jury, Turner had four professional
engineering societies and twenty-two state engineering boards vouching for his professional and legal
conduct.
C. The American Engineering Alliance (AEA), at the time chaired by Louis Comunelli, championed Turner's
cause. Starting in May 1998, Comunelli wrote letters to the Idaho licensure board, the governor of Idaho,
the Idaho State Bar Association, and the Idaho Attorney General informing them that the dismissal of the
case was an affront to the entire purpose of professional engineering licensing. In the letter to the Idaho
licensure board, Comunelli stated that "unless corrective action is taken, there is no longer a justification for
Registration of Engineers in the State of Idaho". The Idaho board, in addition to 21 other state boards,
would support Turner's second case because of the efforts of the AEA and other societies. The engineering
societies also requested that the society's members donate funds to help Turner with his legal fees.
Summary:
Ed Turner's case against the city of Idaho Falls is an excellent example of an engineer standing up for his
principles and championing his profession's code of conduct. Turner acted courageously, particularly in
knowing he would face financial difficulty as a result of his choices. It takes extraordinary individuals like
Turner to defend engineering principles in the face of daily assaults; however, national and international
organizations play an important role in defending and promoting professional ethics. The Turner case begs
the question: Would more engineers be willing to stand up to poor management decisions if they
were more aware of success stories like Ed Turner's?