Those consultants involved in design, construction, and maintenance as well as in storm damage repair in coastal zones should be fully apprised of the professional responsibility and legal liability that they have or will probably incur. The coastal zone is the most environmentally dynamic area in California and is subject to a variety of natural hazards which are exacerbated during periods of climatic extremes. Most professionals have not had sufficient training in marine geology, coastal engineering, and engineering geology to fully understand and evaluate the natural hazards which exist in the coastal zone. Thus, many costly errors have been and are still being made.

Architects, engineers, and geologists should be fully cognizant of their exposure to liability when providing professional services. They should be aware that codes frequently do not meet current prudent professional standards and that just meeting the codes will not protect one from being sued for malpractice. Fraud and gross negligence have now been joined by the principle of simple negligence as grounds for legal action against professionals whose work proves to be erroneous, lacking in data, or inadequate. The “act of God” is no longer a valid excuse for professional error, omission, or negligence. The professionals working in the coastal area have an implied professional responsibility and attendant legal liability related to landslides and other slope failures, erosion, flooding, foundation failures, and seismic hazards as well as for added destruction caused by wave action, tidal action, and longshore transport.

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