Engineer Not Entitled to Statutory Immunity of City

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

In a case involving alleged engineering errors in designing a city water reservoir, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth District has held that the private engineering firm retained by the city was not an employee or agent of the city for sovereign immunity purposes. Trucco Construction Co, Inc. v. Fremont, 2013 WL 494353 (Ohio App. 6th Dist. Feb. 8, 2013).

While the Court conceded that the engineering contract provided that the engineer would act as the city’s representative during construction, this did not equate to an employment or agency relationship. The Court said the purpose of this contract provision was simply for the engineer to act as the city’s liaison in requiring that the contractor comply with the plans and specifications, particularly when the city and the contractor agreed that the engineer would be a neutral party when interpreting the contract documents in a dispute. The Court also pointed out that the city did not directly control the engineer’s work product, and therefore the engineer was an “independent contractor” not entitled to statutory immunity.