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Don't sign if you can't do the time

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Somebody has suggested a reason for my freelance friend, Juanita, being imposed upon by her former boss over something she had done or failed to do on a job years before. It is a Court of Appeal case reported in the RIBA's excellent Practice Bulletin edited by Neal Morris: Merrett v Babb . Babb was a properly qualified surveyor. Merrett made a mortgage application.

The firm Babb worked for did the survey and valuation. OK, Babb actually did it. And he signed the report. Later the firm went toes up and with it went its PI cover and its runoff cover. Later Merrett claimed the report was negligent and she sued Babb. He said sorry, not me, it's my (now bankrupt) firm. The Appeal Court said not so. It did not matter that Babb was an employee and not personally instructed, he was a professional. And he had personally signed the report.

Maybe Kim Franklin will say something about this soon but it seems that any employee who signs a report 'in a personal capacity', with his or her own name, is wholly responsible for it. If former bosses want to settle old scores there is no reason why they have to accept responsibility for your misjudgements. Worse, your former boss's insurers may take that view. Personally, I'm coming in late tonight, rifling the job files, crossing out all my signatures and bunging in the practice name instead.

And never signing my name ever again. Nowhere is safe.

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