ProNetworkNews_2013MarchThe March 2013 issue of ProNetwork News is the second installment of a two-part article; the author, Tim Corbett of SmartRisk explains the origins and principles of project coverage and introduces the reader to two of the four main types of Project Insurance. For a recap of the first part, including details about types 1 (Project Professional Liability Insurance) and 2 (IPD Project Specific Insurance), download the full March issue, or, better yet, download the February 2013 newsletter here.

Now, let’s examine the remaining three types of project coverage.

3. Project Specific Insurance Limits

Sometimes, contracts demand that design professionals carry a higher limit than they usually do. This can occur on any kind of project, but is more common on larger, higher risk projects, and more recently, on public ones. One of the more common strategies for obtaining increased limits for a project is through a Project Specific Insurance Limit. This is provided by endorsement through your current practice policy insurance carrier.

Benefits and typical features of Project Specific Insurance Limits:

  • Provides a higher limit for the firm, for a specific project only.
  • Can be more cost effective than raising the limits on the entire practice policy.
  • Makes the cost of the project-specific limit a reimbursable expense.

Cautionary Points and Tactics:

Having a project specific increased limit may not always be the best strategy, and it may not even be available from your practice policy carrier. From an insurance company’s perspective, comparing construction costs to policy limits is part of the underwriting process. Construction value and requested limits may not be in line with the insurer’s potential exposure: those higher limits requested could place a target on the design firm’s back. The insurer doesn’t want to provide the higher limits that could be used as a cost recovery strategy.

  • Ensure that requested limits are in line with exposures and construction costs. For example, is it necessary to require a $5 million limit of professional liability insurance from a firm performing services on a $20 million project?
  • Contact the contract administrator, and state that your firm normally carries a lower professional liability limit than requested, and that it is consistent with industry practice. Inquire if your current limit will be acceptable.

* Include language similar to the following in your contract:

“The expense of any additional insurance coverage or limits requested by the Owner in excess of that normally carried by the firm shall be a reimbursable expense paid by the Owner.”

To find out more about types 4 (The Wrap-Up Policy) and 5 (Owner Protective Insurance Policy or OPIP), download the full March 2013 issue from our website.

About the Author: Timothy (Tim) Corbett is Founder and President of SmartRisk, a Pasadena, CA based consultancy with over 25 years of experience providing risk management and performance management solutions to Design and Building Professionals. Mr. Corbett holds a BS Degree in Security & Risk Management, MS Degree in Management; a degree in Environmental studies as well as concentrated studies in Architecture Design and is LEED accredited. For more information on this or other topics, visit the SmartRisk website or email Tim at

Photo via Victor O. Schinnerer's War Stories: Budget Buster
Photo via Victor O. Schinnerer’s War Stories: Budget Buster

I shouldn’t need to buy  insurance! I’ve never had a claim.

This is a common refrain from architects and engineers purchasing professional liability insurance for the first time. We hear you. There are lots of design professionals who feel this way. That’s why it’s important to recognize that insurance isn’t about punishing you for past claims; it’s about protecting you from future claims. Contractual insurance requirements aren’t merely expensive obstacles to bidding for a job; they’re supposed to protect the individual parties from the far more expensive burden of an uninsured professional liability claim. And, like it or not, industries like Architecture and Engineering are rife with potential claims.

Oh yeah? Like what?

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out this library of War Stories and Claims Scenarios from Architects, Engineers, Surveyors & Consultants, an excellent resource offered by Victor O. Schinnerer, one of the leading Professional Liability insurance companies. These are real life claims stories. Here you can read through scenarios which happened to other firms, often in spite of their best efforts to avoid such things! While the names have been changed, details are included. In each case, you’ll find out what the mistake was. How it was made. How much it ultimately cost. How it could have been avoided.

A couple of examples from the War Stories library:

Budget Buster

ABC Engineers provided design services for a residential project. The owner obtained a construction loan from a bank for $2.7 million; believing he could obtain additional funds from the bank if needed. As construction progressed, they expended the $2.7 million budget before the project was complete. The bank believed $2.7 million was adequate to complete the project and denied the owner’s request for an additional $1.3 million. The owner could not obtain additional funds and the contractors stopped working, leaving the project incomplete. Read more at Schinnerer’s website…

Due Diligence is Due

Gerard Coins Architecture, a sole proprietor, was retained by a housing authority to provide architectural design for Blanket Apartments, a low income housing development. Gerard Coins Architecture also provided mechanical design, which was permitted by state law. The architect’s design called for standard, 30 gallon water heaters but the owner wanted electric, tankless water heaters instead. The architect checked with a supplier and based on verbal information, sized the water heaters for the apartment units.

After the apartments were built, it was discovered that the water heaters did not supply enough hot water. The architect contacted the water heater manufacturer who told him the water heaters were intended to be used at a source, such as a sink or bathtub—not to heat the water for an entire apartment. Read more at Schinnerer’s website…

Risky Inspection

Homer Watkins Engineering, a civil engineering firm, was retained to provide a limited inspection and design report for a historic building. Several years later, they provided an inspection report for the sale of the same building.

A painting contractor employee, who was working on the historic building, fell three stories sustaining serious injuries after the railing collapsed on a balcony he leaned against. The painting contractor employee filed suit claiming he was permanently, partially disabled and disfigured. After filing suit against a number of parties, Homer Watkins Engineering’s inspection report was found during discovery and the suit was amended to add them.

The painting contractor employee contended that while Homer Watkins Engineering’s inspection report put the new owner on notice that the railing was too low and posed a safety hazard, it did not go far enough in warning the owner that it should be fixed immediately. While it was felt the height of the railing had nothing to do with the fall, the defense counsel felt the inspection report should have been more detailed as it was dealing with a very old brick and wood building that may have had weaknesses requiring more investigation. Read more at Schinnerer’s website…

Protect yourself and your firm from situations like these by purchasing a Professional Liability policy tailored to the specific needs of design professionals. Our members are specialists in this field, so find and contact your local a/e ProNet broker today.

scalesWhere does professional liability end and personal liability begin? For design professionals, the line can sometimes be fuzzy, especially with regard to personal injury claims.

Now, Florida’s lawmakers have taken steps to limit liability in for design professionals in these cases.

According to a recent announcement by the legal firm of Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP:


“On April 24, 2013 Governor Scott signed Senate Bill 286 into law creating section 558.0035, Florida Statutes. This new law grants individual design professionals employed by a business entity or an agent of the entity immunity from liability for economic damages resulting from negligence occurring within the course and scope of a professional services contract under the following conditions: (a) the contract is made between the business entity and a claimant or another entity for the provision of services to the claimant; (b) the contract does not name an individual employee or agent as a party to the contract; (c) the contract prominently states that an individual employee or agent may not be held individually liable for negligence; (d) the business entity maintains any professional liability insurance required under the contract; and (e) any damages are solely economic in nature and do not extend to persons or property not subject to the contract. The law takes effect on July 1, 2013 and does not state that it is retroactive…

This new law erodes Florida’s common law which has allowed professional negligence claims against an individual design professional based on the professional’s violation of her duty of care to those who may be foreseeably injured. Florida’s common-law imposes a duty of care on all individual professionals that exceeds the duty of care of the general public. Professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and design professionals, have always been held to a higher standard of care and associated individual liability for professional negligence. This new law will afford design professionals protections that other professionals do not enjoy.”

For the full, detailed announcement, visit the Smith, Currie & Hancock website.

Shout-Out Credit:

Meade Collinsworth
Collinsworth, Alter, Fowler & French, LLC of Miami Lakes , FL
Email: / Phone: 305-822-7800

pronetworknews_201301For design professionals, it’s good business to have a solid, fair contract in place before you begin work on a project. So, what are the three essential rules of putting together a construction contract? Our January 2013 ProNetwork News newsletter has the answer:

In the construction world, the contract rules the parties. It is the blueprint (pun intended) that says what you can be sued for, when you can sue the other party, and what your damages will be. If you do not have any written contract, the law presumes certain things that you may not want it to presume. Therefore, you must treat the contract seriously, and consider these three essential rules.

  1. Put all agreements in writing
  2. Negotiate or strike through unfair or one-sided terms
  3. Deal with discrepancies between the Proposal for Services and the Contract

(1) Put all agreements in writing

Design professionals who rely on “handshake” or “gentlemen’s agreements” are playing a game of Russian roulette. One bad project, and you’ll wish that you had a well-written, reviewed and negotiated contract.

Written contracts are crucial to enforcing binding agreements once the dirt begins to turn. Memories fade, records are lost, and key employees leave. Having all the crucial terms in writing eliminates the need to argue over how changes are handled, how compensation issues are dealt with, and how disputes are decided.

(2) Negotiate or strike through unfair or one-sided terms

While a written contract is important, it is almost better to have no written contract than to have a poorly negotiated, unfair, or unclear written contract. Continue reading “The Construction Contract: 3 Essential Rules”

certwars_geThe following is an excerpt of the February 2013 a/e ProNet Guest Essay, Calling a Cease Fire in the Certificate of Insurance Wars. You may download the full PDF version of the newsletter on our website.

In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes. – Julius Caesar

Battles about certificates of insurance can sour relationships and sow the seeds of discord with clients at the very beginning of a project. And they are becoming more and more common.

Here is a short history of a typical certificate war: The design firm is awarded a new project. Corks pop. The team assembles. Spirits and expectations are high. The first sign of trouble is a call or an email from the project owner’s certificate checker: Your certificate of insurance is not in compliance with the insurance requirements set forth in our contract. Please reissue. The design firm calls its broker, confident that this little paperwork glitch will be simple to fix.  But there is bad news. This is not a case of a misspelled name or a typo. The certificate checker is correct: The design firm’s insurance program does not, in fact, comply with the contract requirements.

This is never a good moment, but the design firm rallies and asks how much it will cost to purchase compliant coverage. But then comes an even worse moment, when the broker explains that the contract requirements are impossible to satisfy. The coverage the owner wants is no longer available, is not available from a stable and financially-sound carrier, or, all too often, never was available at all.  The design firm tries to make the owner see reason, but sometimes this drama ends with calls and emails to the design firm, its broker, or both, threatening to award the job to another firm if a compliant certificate is not produced today.

Even if the problem is eventually resolved, the bad impression created by this conflict can tarnish a design firm’s relationship with the owner before it ever gets a chance to shine.

How did we get here? How did a one-page summary of insurance coverage that, by its very terms, does not “amend, extend or alter” any insurance policy become the source of so much trouble? And what can design professionals do to avoid certificate rejections and the problems they cause? Continue reading “Calling a Ceasefire in the Certificate of Insurance Wars”

pronetworknews_nov2012If you have ever gone car or shoe shopping with and for someone else (teenagers and significant others, in particular), you know the difficulty and frustration that usually follows efforts to fit and style those with strong opinions and feelings on the subject. Such shopping is more an effort in very personal comfort, feel and perception than utility. The same can be true for design professionals’ scope of services. The most recent economy has left design professionals to suffer earliest, longest and hardest, particularly those that rely on residential development. To keep busy, some A/Es are marketing a broader scope of services, including services historically reserved for construction contractors. The comfort, feel and perception of such expanded scopes of services are highly personal but come with distinct and practical liabilities and risks. Like finding the right shoe size or vehicle type, A/Es can manage expanded risks with properly fitting contracts, insurance and professional structure.

SUV v. Sedan and Dress Shoe v. Cleats

In annual magazine reviews, sedans are compared to sedans and SUVs are compared to SUVs. The same is true of legal standards by which different roles are judged. A/Es provide a professional service and are compared to other A/Es by a standard of care – what others in the same profession are doing or would have done for a similar project. A/E contracts typically take care to adhere to recitations of the baseline standard of care and avoid or disclaim responsibility for means and methods, safety, warranties and the contractor’s timely or proper performance.

Contractors provide a finished product which is judged by a good and workmanlike standard: a warranty of quality, timeliness and, usually, safe performance of the work. Contractor agreements therefore give the contractor control over and responsibility for means and methods, safety, warranties, schedule and performance.

Crossovers and Hybrids

There is a line between trucks and cars, but there are luxury SUVs and crossovers to blur the line and offer compromises of varying degree.  The line between A/E services and contractor services has become equally fuzzy.  Try to explain in words the difference between the scope of services of a Construction Manager/Advisor, a Program Manager and an Owner’s Representative. For example:  The label is less important than the intended division of responsibility, control and money, and how that is expressed in a contract.  Continue reading “Architects Step Into Contractors Liability, Size XXL”


In this video, you can watch the construction of a 30-story apartment building in less than 3 minutes. That’s the beauty of time-lapse technology. But the reality is also super fast. The apartment building, comprised of 30 floors built in sections, “each measuring 15.6 by 3.9 meters, with a depth of 45 centimeters,” was built from the ground up in just 15 days.

“Zhang Yue, founder and chairman of Broad Sustainable Building, is not a particularly humble man,” writes Lauren Hilgers in her recent piece for Wired magazine. “A humble man would not have erected, on his firm’s corporate campus in the Chinese province of Hunan, a classical palace and a 130-foot replica of an Egyptian pyramid. A humble man, for that matter, would not have redirected Broad from its core business—manufacturing industrial air-conditioning units—to invent a new method of building skyscrapers. And a humble man certainly wouldn’t be putting up those skyscrapers at a pace never achieved in history.”

The efficiency made possible by this copy-paste style of construction could change the way whole cities are designed in China, the country with the highest population in the world. But what impact will it have elsewhere? And what are the risks of such speedy construction?

In October 2012, Evan Osnos wrote Boss Rail, an article for the New Yorker magazine which revealed the flaws in China’s recent high-speed rail boom.

“In 2003, China’s Minister of Railways, Liu Zhijun, took charge of plans to build seventy-five hundred miles of high-speed railway—more than could be found in the rest of the world combined… With a total investment of more than two hundred and fifty billion dollars, the undertaking was to be the world’s most expensive public-works project since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, in the nineteen-fifties. To complete the first route by 2008, Minister Liu, whose ambition and flamboyance earned him the nickname Great Leap Liu, drove his crews and engineers to work in shifts around the clock, laying track, revising blueprints, and boring tunnels… When the first high-speed line débuted with a test run in June, 2008, it was seventy-five per cent over budget and relied heavily on German designs.”

On July 23, 2011, lightning struck a signal box outside the city of Wenzhou, and gave one of the high-speed trains a green light rather than a red on. The resulting crash killed 40 people and injured 192. It was this tragedy that forced China to take a closer look at what turned out to be a highly pressurized process, hobbled by the corruption of government officials, as well as the illegal practices of wealthy citizens.

Sacrificing oversight and transparency for speed is a concern, especially since China is already in the architecture world’s line of fire these days due to frequent accusations of copyright infringement (Creative China, Cutting and Pasting?). In a recent example, the New York Daily News wrote, “Already famed for fake designer bags and pirated DVDs, imitation in China may have reached new heights with a set of towers that strongly resemble ones designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid.”

But Hadid might be the first to remind her counterparts that the existence of China’s specific market, even taking into account the political structure and shaded history, is beneficial. She has worked extensively in China, crediting the country as a major influence on her evolution and success as an artist. In a November 2012 piece published by Newsweek, author Melinda Liu quotes Hadid as saying, “Every country has its local requirements. In China, the requirement is to be big. Where else can you get this scale? That’s its Chineseness.”

Whether this latest exercise in speed and efficiency will be primarily positive for the world of architects, engineers, and builders remains to be seen.

october_pronetwork_newsThe following is an excerpt of Part 2 in this two-part series. In Part 1, author Eric Singer covered Veni (I went to the site) and Vidi (I observed for general conformance with design intent).

Lis Pendens – I got sued anyway

Sometimes observable deficiencies get missed, or the timing, relative solvency or insured status of the parties and plain old bad luck conspire to force you to defend your compliance with the standard of care. In tort claims (injuries, property damage or other calamities), most states have procedural mechanisms to apportion fault among the parties or to add parties potentially at fault. Contract lawsuits are different and an owner could choose to pursue the A/E and leave the contractor alone or to settle and join forces with the contractor. In contract cases, many jurisdictions make it difficult for an architect to pursue claims against a contractor without a direct contract. You can defend by blaming the contractor’s “empty chair” or try a more aggressive approach. The general conditions may provide you with some ammunition.

General Conditions frequently contain a warranty in favor of both the owner and the architect. The AIA A201 (2007), for example, provides “The Contractor warrants to the Owner and Architect that materials and equipment furnished under the Contract will be of good quality and new unless the Contract Documents require or permit otherwise. The Contractor further warrants that the Work will conform to the requirements of the Contract Documents and will be free from defects, except for those inherent in the quality of the Work the Contract Documents require or permit.” (A201 – 2007, §3.5). Interpretation of this provision and rights of the architect in these circumstances varies greatly state to state. If viable in your state, a warranty claim against the contractor may prevent the owner and contractor from settling cheap or joining forces against the design team.

To read about Vici, I conquered, visit our website where you may download the full PDF version of this October 2012 issue (and all previous issues) of our ProNetwork Newsletters.

About the Author: Eric Singer is a partner at Ice Miller, LLP. He concentrates his practice in construction law, with emphasis on the representation of architects, engineers, contractors, owners, and lenders as well as other professionals, in litigation and alternative dispute resolution of design and construction issues. Mr. Singer, who was awarded his J.D by the University of Chicago Law School, is a former Professional Affiliate Director of the American Institute of Architects of Chicago and is a member of multiple bar associations and design professional groups. Recently ranked as AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell and listed in The Best Lawyers of America, Construction Law, by those peer-review organizations, Eric is an active speaker and prolific author on the subject of construction litigation and the liability of the design professional. Contact Eric Singer at:

Don’t forget to contact your local a/e ProNet broker if you have any questions!

In 2013, Professional Liability insurance provider Victor O. Schinnerer will host independent subject-matter experts for four webinars, all geared toward Architects, Engineers, and other Design Professionals:

Computer-aj_aj_ashton_01.svgEmployment Liability Issues in a Recovering Economy

February 13, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

Thomas L. McCally, Esq., Carr Maloney, P.C., Washington, DC

Design firms face various types of employment liability issues during the normal course of business. However, the downturn and subsequent recovery of the economy have brought these issues to the forefront of concerns for design firms. An attorney expert in litigating design firm employment practices claims will discuss the issues firms need to recognize as the economy improves and firms prepare to staff-up for the recovery.

Business Models and Financial Opportunities in a Recovering Economy

April 10, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

Michael O’Brien, ASA, Rusk, O’Brien, Gido + Partners, Washington, DC

From funding sources to procurement procedures, the financial environment for professional services has significantly changed since the pre-recession economy. Both in the public and private sectors, the rules, risks, and routes to financial success are different. Professional services firms need to adjust their business plans to remain viable and to benefit from the opportunities in a recovering economy. Specializing in solving the business management and ownership challenges of consulting firms, our expert will share thoughts on the needs and responses of firms in the new service environment.

Technology Risks for Design Professionals

September 11, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

David J. Shannon, Esq., Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman, Goggin, Philadelphia, PA

Technology risks associated with the business operations and professional services of design professionals is not new. However, the increased use of building information technologies and collaborative delivery methods, such as integrated project delivery, may increase the exposure of firms to traditional technology risks, as well as introduce new risks. Join our discussion with an attorney expert in technology risks to learn what exposures design firms need to be aware of and how to manage those exposures.

Insurance and Legal Questions for the Collaborative Design Team

October 9, 2013, 1:00 – 2:00 pm eastern

Rebecca H. Farnum, Esq., Thompson & Bowie, LLP, Portland, ME

Building information modeling and integrated project delivery provide a platform through which all members of the design and construction team collaborate. As with all new technologies and delivery methods, there are important questions the collaborating team should ask to identify and respond to legal and insurance issues in the open transfer of information in a contractual arrangement of shared risk and reward. Our expert will discuss what types of questions the team should ask before formally entering a collaborative agreement.

Visit our website to download the full PDF version of the 2013 Victor O. Schinnerer webinar schedule.