Anyone know about the ramifications of being an employee and the only licensed professional in a 'landscape architecture' firm (incorporated)? Where does the liability lie and who's one the line? Is it the owner/corporation (deep pocket) or would a lawyer come after the license? Thanks....
Good Question. I have the same question.
Only Owners/Partners of the firm should seal drawings or reports. Employees should NEVER seal documents for the firm. The person that seals documents is the one that stands behind the document and would be liable if something goes wrong. That person must be one of the Owners of the firm. An employee does not sign the contract for the work, does not share in profit, does not get credit if things go well, so it would be a mistake for an employee to assume any liability for action of the firm.
Legally, the really short answer is going to be 'everyone'. It could get fairly complex, but the company, the LA, and anyone with oversight to the LA could be named individually and collectively in a lawsuit. And they may have to fight it individually or as a group. Assuming the company is carrying the required liability insurance the policy will spell out who is covered and how, and it's entirely possible that an LA would NOT be covered because of company structure.
Professionally, whoever stamped is where the liability lies and who is on the line. By doing so the person attested they reviewed everything and that it was acceptable enough to them to take responsibility for it. Complaints and problems will be registered against that license, and it is that person's license that would be revoked if it came down to it.
It sounds like you are in the drivers seat for a substantial raise!
The way I read California's practice act, it doesn't appear that a landscape architect needs to be a principal for the firm to practice there. I'm aware of at least two states (Florida, Kansas) that do. If you are licensed in multiple states and the company expects you to seal drawings in those states, be sure to check the respective laws.
And that your ass is covered by their insurance.
the firm isn't a landscape architecture firm if the owners/principals are not landscape architects.
the firm isn't allowed to do any work in the profession of landscape architecture.
schematic plans landscape plans for private residential projects (without call-outs) and planting plans (without specifications) are the only drawings that the firm is allowed to produce legally.
if the firm is relying on your license to take the landscape architecture title and to practice landscape architecture beyond the things I've noted above - then you might want to discuss a partnership with your employers. If the firm is not relying on your license and is doing work beyond that which is noted above - then the company may be construed to be representing itself to the public in a fraudulent manner.
assuming that the contract is arranged between the client and the firm - as an employee you should not be held liable. However if the company is blatantly committing fraud and you are aware of this, your position as an innocent employee may undermine your position in court.
anyone can be sued. i would recommend either asking for partnership, or never stamping drawings. and make sure your company insures you properly...
you may want to contact the sf bar lawyer referral and information services to ask your questions to an attorney with expertise in this area - the fee for a 30 minute consultation is just $35...
Thank you Rodney, Chris, Wyatt for the informative feedback....really helpful. Without having spent a lot of time with the California Practice Act, I agree with Wyatt that a landscape architect does not have to be a principal to practice at a firm. I know many licensed LA's that are not currently owners of the firms they're employed by.
However, being the sole license holder within a 'landscape architectural firm', it's seems like an untypical situation. As Rodney notes, the employees do not sign the contract for the work. Which potentially brings up a disconnect between the person sealing the drawings (an employee in this case), and the person guaranteeing the work (professional services), who is not licensed.