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The Duty of Care in Design – Can Engineers Rely on Codes of Practice?∗

by Donald Charrett

Dr Donald Charrett & Dr Andrew Potts (2013) 152 Australian Construction Law News 6.

Contracts for engineering design normally include the obligation that the services will be performed with the reasonable skill, care and diligence that would be applied by a normally skilled member of the profession in similar circumstances. The profession makes considerable use of codes of practice, or “standards”, which codify current design practice. The prevailing view of the design profession is that such standards represent the “state of the art” that they are expected to apply. But does compliance with the current applicable standard mean that the designer has discharged his/her contractual duty of care? Might something more be required? Does the designer need to anticipate how the design standards may evolve? This paper addresses these questions in the light of a recent case, in which the judge’s findings on the applicable standard of care in relation to the use of current design standards may be surprising to many designers.


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