I saw a recent post from Joseph Welter from the law firm of Goldberg Segalla in which he shares an article from Professional Liability Matters about confidentiality in litigation matters. The article was very interesting as it talked about the challenges associated with maintaining confidentiality requirements and it got me thinking about a recent experience speaking before a couple hundred building code officials. My topic was ‘Design, Construction & Enforcement – Perspectives of a Forensic Architect’ and during a break in the presentation various state and local officials approached me to express their frustration with conflicts that are created for them between our litigation role as lawyers and experts to keep matters in design and construction disputes confidential and their role in enforcing health, safety & welfare standards.
Both the Lawyers who authored the article and the Code Officials raise valid, yet conflicting points. Let’s say a building owner has made a claim against a design professional for designing a building that does not meet minimum code requirements. In a litigation forum from the civil Court’s perspective, its usually not in the Plaintiff or the Defendant’s best interests to deviate from the confidentiality requirements. However, from the separate perspective of a Building Code Official charged with protecting health, safety, & welfare, its not in the best interests of the public and others that will continue to occupy that same building to not be made aware that an expert has found code violations or other hazards. Is it right for confidentiality to exclude the Code Official from knowing the details of such findings?
The conflict is real and the challenges are difficult, particularly for me. I’m not just a forensic architect, I’m also still a practicing Registered Architect. This means I have to find a way to satisfy both my clients needs as well as the court’s reasonable expectations for confidentiality and my separate obligations as a licensed architect to the same standards raised for protecting the interests of the health, safety & welfare of the public and other building occupants. This challenge had repeated itself hundreds and hundreds of times over the years and ultimately, my professional role has always found a way to meet both obligations. But it has required me to take extra steps similar in nature to the points raised in the article. Thanks for posting it Mr. Welter. http://professionalliabilitymatters.com/2014/03/11/confidentiality-issues-in-high-profile-litigation/