We get lots of great questions from our clients who are studying for the NPPE and don't quite understand everything they read from the law and ethics textbooks.  That is perfectly normal as it is not common for engineers to have a strong legal or ethical foundation at the start of their studies.  This skill is developed by using our NPPE Prep Course, reading the supplementary exam materials and asking questions.

Here is a question that one of our clients asked us, along with our reply.

Question:

According to what I read from the analysis/author on page 65 (of the 3rd edition Practical Law textbook), the judge will not determine the payment of a compensation of the building owner because the building is still usable and because the owner had no loss due to the savings by the contractor when making a thinner slab. Is my point correct?

Answer:

The text states that when deciding between the second and third options for the measure of damages (b- the cost of repairing the slab ($200,000)  / c- the building is usable, but the property value is decreased by $50,000) the first and most important question that must be answered is whether the plaintiff (the property owner) has demonstrated their intention to carry out repairs. 

The court must also look at whether it is reasonable to carry out repairs.

What the text is suggesting in the final paragraph is that the court cannot grant a full reinstatement of the contract, if there is no intention to carry out the repairs. Because the plaintiff technically had a usable building, this must be decided. If the plaintiff receives a full reinstatement AND decides not to go forward with repairs (uses the building as-is with 3.5-inch slabs) then the plaintiff is in a far better position than what would be considered reasonable (he would have a usable building, and a lump sum of money awarded by the breach of contract).

Therefore from the information in the text - your point is correct - IF it is ruled or decided that the plaintiff is going to use the building as built (with 3.5-inch slabs).

However, if you wanted to look a little deeper, you can read this related case.  You can see that it is likely that there would be an award for at least what was lost by the plaintiff, regardless of his intention to do repairs. In the actual case, the floor thickness made a substantial difference in terms of “water-proofing”, therefore, it is likely that he would receive damages in the amount of what the plaintiff lost to the value of the property. Therefore with the facts stated in the text it is likely that the court would award the plaintiff with the $50,000 lost in property value because of the contractor’s mistake/negligence in slab thickness.

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