Engineer Exposure to Litigation

June 14, 2021 | By: Owen Kavanagh

Building engineers are taking on more roles than ever before. Not only do they manage the technical day-to-day of a building, but they also act as the “face” for many tenants. Building engineers must utilize customer service and problem-solving skills in addition to their technical know-how. And just to add to the priorities, building engineers may be exposed to litigation from tenants and third parties.

How Regular is Litigation Against Building Operations Staff?

Claims against building engineers are uncommon according to Luke A. Kill, Esq. of Andre Kill & McCarthy, LLP.

Kills says that he has not handled claims against individual engineers in his practice. Litigation against individual employees and building engineers is unusual. Normally, claims are made against a few other groups before reaching individual employees.

“Usually claims are made against landlord, property management companies, and building owners, without necessarily including individual employees like building engineers.” Kill stated.

There are many layers a complainant must sift through before reaching a building engineer, and each group normally has insurance to protect against personal claims.

Where can Operations Staff Face Litigation?

The few ways an individual building engineer may face litigation involve negligence and bad luck. The first example involves a third party injuring themselves. If a third party slips while a building engineer has their equipment in that party’s way, they may be liable. This is by no means the only way a building engineer may face liability from a third party but should give a general idea of what that may involve. The second example comes from far more regular events.

Tenants may make claims against a building engineer regarding failing utilities, water, HVAC, and lighting, among others. However, a person filing litigation over their tenant experience rarely gets to an individual employee. Landlords, property management companies, and building owners normally come first. If a tenant is targeting you as a building engineer, it is just bad luck that you had to deal with them.

How can Building Operators Avoid Litigation?

Know your insurance policies. Insurance policies protect property management companies, building owners, and landlords as well as individual employees like building operations and maintenance staff. Independent contractors may be protected by other group’s insurance (such as management companies, owners, and landlords), but make sure to have your own and know it well.

Be attuned to your insurance, and make sure it gives adequate coverage. Know your insurance policies and keep to them. Do not volunteer for jobs outside the scope of yours.

“Farm out specialty tasks,”  Kill said.

Be willing and able to bring in specialists on jobs requiring them. And make sure to keep in line with written policy. The first thing an insurance company will ask is, “Did you keep to policy?”

Building engineers are taking on more and more responsibility, and the liability building engineers face is primarily an issue of insurance, but risk can almost always be mitigated by being careful and attentive.





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