Dear Mr. Ethics,
We just inspected a pier that has been converted into a nightclub. The owner noticed sagging in the western most corner of the night club that extends about 80 feet in the water. Our investigation revealed severe undermining of that section of the pier due to the complete rotting of 4 pilings that are supposed to support that area of the pier. We sat down with the owner and reviewed our report which states that under load the pier is in imminent danger of collapsing. The owner seemed very upset and said he was going to take care of the situation immediately. We have no further services to perform. We are now wondering if we should submit our report to City officials. Would that be a violation of our contract with the owner if we did that?
I do not think violating your contract is your primary concern. It sounds like you have identified a situation that is a threat to public safety. You need to contact the owner and see if he will be submitting the report to the City. If not, I think ethics says that you submit the report. Your greater duty lies with the protection of the public. By submitting the report you are putting the City on notice of a public safety issue and by doing so you could prevent someone from getting hurt or worse. You may lose a client by taking this action, and maybe face a suit for breach of contract but I think those possible consequences are much less than the possible consequence of not preventing someone from being injured or worse.