It is said that the legal systems of Scotland and England arrive broadly at the same answer, but by different routes. There is always truth in a generalisation, but there are particular areas of concern to the consulting engineer, i.e. prescription and duty of care.
In most construction contracts when claims arise, the engineer (or architect) is required to judge fairly between the rights of the Quality employer and those of the contractor. There are several obstacles to this process. Firstly, assurance the Resident Engineer may have a different version of events from those put forward by the contractor, and the engineer, not unnaturally, may favour his employee’s account. Secondly, the claim may be based on deficiencies in the engineer’s site investigation, specification, or drawings, or on their late delivery, and an engineer would need to be superhuman to be completely impartial in making his decision. Thirdly, the cost or programme consequences of a decision in favour of the contractor may be unpalatable to the employer, and knowledge of this could be difficult for the engineer to put from his mind. Fourthly, the employer may feel, and express the view, that he is paying the engineer to defend him against the contractor.
In January 1988, I wrote an article for Structural news, which was a personal view of the role that quality assurance could play in the day-to-day regulation of the work of