The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 13 (1935) > Issues > Issue 12 > The Authority and Liability of the Engineer Under Contract With his Employer. The Law of Arbitration
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The Authority and Liability of the Engineer Under Contract With his Employer. The Law of Arbitration and Award, with special reference to the Arbitration Acts, 1889-1934.

THE authority and liability of the engineer under contract with his employer depends upon the terms of the contract, which of course may vary considerably in accordance with the work undertaken and the services required. An engineer should then be careful in each case to act within the terms of his contract. His general duties as a specialist are well known to him, and if he is negligent in the discharge of any of those duties, he is of course liable to an action for negligence, namely, if there has been on his part a want of reasonable care and skill. But where by the terms of the contract between the engineer's employer and the builder, he is to act as arbritrator or quasi arbitrator, which is to my mind a meaningless phrase which has unfortunately been used in certain judgments, he is not liable for negligence when giving such decision in his capacity as arbitrator under the terms of the contract. Though an engineer may be the agent of his employer for the purpose of obtaining tenders as well as making drawings for and superintending works, he has no authority to warrant to the builder that they are correct any more than he has, without the express authority of the owner, any right to accept a tender, and if he in any way exceeds his authority he is liable for an action for breach of warranty of authority. In any case where the engineer enters into any contract on behalf of his employer, and the employer disputes his authority it will in such a case depend upon whether the engineer was the agent of his employer for that purpose, or whether his employer held him out as having such authority. In contracts of considerable magnitude a resident engineer is sometimes appointed, in particular when the contract is in relation to work abroad. It has been held that where the resident engineer was not the mere servant or agent of the employer, but in an independent position, the employers were not liable for his negligence. This case was decided in the year 1891, but in my opinion, this would not be so if it could be shown that the resident engineer was the agent of the employer. An engineer is liable for the negligence of any person he employs and engages on the work, but he cannot delegate his duties to another. There is no contractual relation between the engineer and the contractor, but if he acted fraudulently, he would be liable to his employer and the contractor. The principal would also be liable for the fraud of his agent, if the fraud is committed in the conduct of the business of the employer, which he would have a right to conduct honestly. A specialist is sometimes employed, such as an engineer, either by the contractor or an architect. In such a case the engineer could not sue the building owner in respect of his fees for work done as there is no privity of contract between himself and the building owner. This has been decided by the House of Lords in the case of Hampton v. Glamorgan C. Council in 1917, A.C.13. It is therefore advisab