Engineer's Dispute With Client Over Design (adapted from NSPE Case No. 84-4)

Engineer's Dispute With Client Over Design (adapted from NSPE Case No. 84-4)


This is an open-ended scenario for discussion based on a case from the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. A client believes an engineer's designs are too costly, but the engineer fears that anything less may endanger the public.


Campbell hires D. J., an engineer, to design a certain project. D. J. develops a design and meets with Campbell to discuss it. The two disagree over the ultimate success of the project. While Campbell feels that the design could be simplified, D. J. believes that a simpler solution could endanger the public. Campbell demands that D. J. turn over the drawings, so that he can present them to Antonopoulos, an engineer who has agreed to complete the project as Campbell wishes. Campbell is willing to pay D. J. for the drawings and the work completed thus far, but D. J. refuses to give Campbell the drawings.

Is D. J. obligated to give Campbell the drawings? Does D. J. have any other obligations or responsibilities that conflict with giving Campbell the drawings? As an ethical matter, should Antonopoulos accept the job of revising the plans to meet Campbell's demand? Would having additional information change your assessment of the situation? If so, what kind of information? How would it be useful?

NSPE Code of Ethics An earlier version may have been used in this case.