Dear Mr. Ethics,
We are the architect of record for a hospital, new construction project. Our contract calls for us to be the initial decision maker for any contractor disputes that arise on the project including any claims that allege errors and omissions against us. The general contractor wants that provision stricken from the project agreements because they believe that we should not be ruling on our own potential errors or omissions. They argue its patently unethical. I think their request is insulting. We can render unbiased decisions. What do you think about the request?
Very truly yours,
Insulted in Utah
I am sure that you can ethically carry out your obligations under this provision but this may be one request you should support. Perceptions can be stronger than reality when it comes to acting ethically. Even if a ruling is unbiased a perception is still going to be that you were covering an exposure of liability that you committed. Moreover, if you determine that an error or omission did occur you could be considered to have admitted liability for any costs incurred as a result of same. Admissions of liability, if made without the consent of your professional liability carrier may result in your coverage being voided. Although you are committed acting in an ethical manner, and perceptions of impropriety may be unethical in themselves, you may want to consider the general contractor’s request. Sometimes it may be better to decline a responsibility so long as it is not unethical to do same. This may be one of those times.
Regards, Mr. Ethics.