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Old 03-11-2015, 19:22   #1
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Surveyor Liability

Hi. I bought a 1998 Sealine 420 Statesman about a year and a half ago and had a certified surveyor inspect and provide a report. The engines are Cummins 6BTA-370 and the surveyor advised that I didn't need another Cummins pro to assist with the survey. My learning curve has been steep and I'm now having the starboard engine rebuilt. The surveyor missed that the exhaust risers had been severely poorly designed and that they would allow water into the cylinders. I heard that surveyors are legally liable for their reports. Is this true? Should I try to recover funds through legal services?
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Old 03-11-2015, 20:28   #2
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Is there any sort of disclaimer in the survey report?

It's not unusual to see something like the following (which I just pulled out of one pre-purchase survey report I have on hand):

"This report is provided in good faith for the exclusive use of the above named on the understanding that although all due care was taken there remains the possibility that defects may go unnoticed or would not be found without interfering with the boats structure, fittings or finish. Although I believe the contents of this report to be accurate I cannot guarantee this and therefore the information is supplied without liability for any error or omission or for any loss or other consequence which may arise from reliance on this report."
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Old 03-11-2015, 20:42   #3
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Re: Surveyor Liability

What is a 'certified surveyor'? I think there is no such thing.

Also, I thing that the disclaimer that StuM presents would not hold up at all in court.

The OP should consult an attorney to know if he should try to recover funds through legal services. The first consultation is usually free.
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Old 04-11-2015, 06:38   #4
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Re: Surveyor Liability

First off, Seymore is correct in suggesting a consultation with a lawyer. Internet legal advice is worth exactly what you pay for it... NOTHING!

That said, I see no reason why the typical disclaimer that StuM posted would not hold up in court. Usually, when disclaimers are held to be invalid, it is because the person tries to disclaim themselves from liability even in cases of negligence. The example provided does not do that, and seems to me to be a very reasonable disclaimer.

Still, to the OP, go talk to a lawyer. Initial consultations are often free, or at most a very modest fee.
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:27   #5
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Re: Surveyor Liability

You need to first assess the cost of the engine vs. the cost of an attorney at $200 to $300 per hour. In my experience if you plan to threaten to go to court, you'll have $5,000 into it before you know what's happening. You'll need the attorney, and an expert witness. You will have to pay them for preparation, and then a deposition.

Secondly, if it really is a "badly designed" engine part, I don't see how the surveyor is responsible.

One way to assess your chance of winning something would be to consult an attorney and see if they would take it on contingency. If not, it means the attorney doesn't feel there is a good chance of recovery and so will insist on being paid hourly if you insist on pursuing it.

You may be able to recover something from the surveyor with the threat of legal action (coming from your attorney), and an offer to settle out of court. The surveyor may offer you what they feel would be their legal costs.
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:34   #6
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Had the same problem in the past. Risers have a nasty way of rotting out on the inside from the water jackets. I'm not sure how a surveyor could know that they would fail 18 months later.



Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneM View Post
Hi. I bought a 1998 Sealine 420 Statesman about a year and a half ago and had a certified surveyor inspect and provide a report. The engines are Cummins 6BTA-370 and the surveyor advised that I didn't need another Cummins pro to assist with the survey. My learning curve has been steep and I'm now having the starboard engine rebuilt. The surveyor missed that the exhaust risers had been severely poorly designed and that they would allow water into the cylinders. I heard that surveyors are legally liable for their reports. Is this true? Should I try to recover funds through legal services?
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Old 04-11-2015, 08:48   #7
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Surveyors can be "certified":

Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors
National Association of Marine Surveyors

And no, none of it means ****.

The only surveyors I've dealt with were too dumb to finish engineering school, and too lazy to get a real job. I know thats a broad brush and there are certainly fine surveyors out there. But good luck finding them!
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:40   #8
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Re: Surveyor Liability

You failed to get an engine survey.
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:55   #9
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneM View Post
The surveyor missed that the exhaust risers had been severely poorly designed
I am a marine surveyor.
So I want that to be clear.
Here is the thing. I will look for bad setups for water flow issues.
However you need to find out who designed the system to be so poorly engineered. If you did not have them design it for you, i do not believe you have recourse. As a surveyor, I cannot claim to be a marine architect.
So if water flows backwards, or a rig is undersized for the sails, or a rudder is not well enough attached, I may not know.
What I do know, and understand is things related to safety.
Are thruhulls bronze? Are they corroded? Did someone use brass in a seawater application? ECT.
I do not design exhaust systems, rigging systems, or anything else. I can tell you they are corroded, or needing replacement, but not, hey, I think the engineering is off by 0.2 degrees.
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:58   #10
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Re: Surveyor Liability

To sue is different than getting money.
Even if you win, collecting is another "hurdle".
For the amount you are talking about, it would not be worth the money and effort to get an Atty.

I have seen this scenario quite often and rarely does it go further than where this is right now.
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:59   #11
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneM View Post
Hi. I bought a 1998 Sealine 420 Statesman about a year and a half ago and had a certified surveyor inspect and provide a report. The engines are Cummins 6BTA-370 and the surveyor advised that I didn't need another Cummins pro to assist with the survey. My learning curve has been steep and I'm now having the starboard engine rebuilt. The surveyor missed that the exhaust risers had been severely poorly designed and that they would allow water into the cylinders. I heard that surveyors are legally liable for their reports. Is this true? Should I try to recover funds through legal services?
Based on what you are saying it is hard to tell of the surveyor is at fault for missing something or not... Of course that isn't what you want to hear when you are looking at $20,000 or more to rebuild the engine.

I would imagine you now have a mechanic that has told you the surveyor missed something...

Did your mechanic walk on the boat and immediately state... Those risers are not the right risers for this boat I bet there is water damage in the pistons? My guess is he didn't and probably didn't see the water damage until he opened up the engine.

So then it come back to what the surveyor said and did.

The Surveyor told you specifically not to use a mechanic to survey the engines?

Does that mean the Surveyor included a survey of the engines? If so, his liability would depend on what he wrote in the survey.

As suggested by another member, GO TALK TO A LAWYER WHO SPECIALIZES IN MARINE LIABILITY LAW and take the survey and any other paper you have involving the survey with you...


Also a get written statement from whoever told you the wrong risers were on the boat and that the surveyor should have known that.


Remember when you get to court, if it isn't written down, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN!

Good Luck
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Old 04-11-2015, 12:02   #12
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatsail View Post
To sue is different than getting money.
Even if you win, collecting is another "hurdle".
For the amount you are talking about, it would not be worth the money and effort to get an Atty.

I have seen this scenario quite often and rarely does it go further than where this is right now.
Most reputable Surveyors carry liability insurance... Especially if they are certified by the National Surveyor groups.
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Old 04-11-2015, 12:08   #13
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremiason View Post
Most reputable Surveyors carry liability insurance... Especially if they are certified by the National Surveyor groups.

Here is y I wrote what I wrote.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatsail View Post
To sue is different than getting money.
Even if you win, collecting is another "hurdle".
For the amount you are talking about, it would not be worth the money and effort to get an Atty.

I have seen this scenario quite often and rarely does it go further than where this is right now.
Most often this scenario stops at this point because taking to a lawyer does not happen.

If it does happen its most likely the Atty would not take this on contingency as there is not enough money involved.

The best chance IMO to get money would be to talk to the surveyor about damages you feel he caused.

With the info provided so far, I would imagine most survey or an would not payout.
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Old 04-11-2015, 12:14   #14
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Re: Surveyor Liability

So now the surveyor is an expert on what a design defect is, versus the opinion of the Cummins engine company.


And if the surveyor is right, all you have to do is take Cummins to court and bring in experts who can show the design of that part is defective.


Somehow, I don't think there's any way that is going to happen in less than ten years and a quarter million in legal fees. I'd forget about that and, in the odd event that the survey contract left him open to anything, if you can file a small claims action for $25 against the surveyor for failing to point out an inherently flawed design, roll the dice on that and don't expect a lot in any case.
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Old 05-11-2015, 21:20   #15
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Re: Surveyor Liability

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneM View Post
My learning curve has been steep and I'm now having the starboard engine rebuilt. The surveyor missed that the exhaust risers had been severely poorly designed and that they would allow water into the cylinders.
Hang on to your socks. Your steep learning curve is about to go vertical.

The exhaust risers had been severely poorly designed so that they would allow water into the cylinders?? So they didn't go above the waterline, right?? And you make a habit of leaving the raw water cock open when you leave the boat, right? And the water leaked past the worn raw water pump impeller, filled up the waterlift muffler and then filled up the engine through the exhaust?

It's strict normal practice that when you leave the boat, all the seacocks are to be closed, with the exception of the cockpit drains. The engines' raw water seacocks are to remain closed until you want to use the engines, when you open them--for exactly the reason you're staring at.

I know of almost no exhaust risers that are brought up a few feet higher than the engine to get the mixer higher that the water level. (I have seen only a few risers, I don't much go around checking other peoples' exhaust risers).

Please accept my condolences about your seized engine. But, the above conjecture being so, it was not the surveyor's doing.
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