Assume that a claim regarding a building and the soil (erosion) are at issue in Florida. The claim indicates a building contractor dispositions the issue verbally and is documented by an (hearsay) a homeowner to form a legal basis of necessity to bypass statute and bylaws requiring a vote.

Does Florida generally require that a particular profession (a Professional (state certified) Engineer) to measure and then disposition if there is an issue and to what degree?


Specifically, Section 718.301(7), Florida Statutes states:

In any claim against a developer by an association alleging a defect in design, structural elements, construction, or any mechanical, electrical, fire protection, plumbing, or other element that requires a licensed professional for design or installation under chapter 455, chapter 471, chapter 481, chapter 489, or chapter 633, such defect must be examined and certified by an appropriately licensed Florida engineer, design professional, contractor, or otherwise licensed Florida individual or entity.

  • Any questions that would help sharpen the question are appreciated.
    – gatorback
    Dec 14, 2020 at 3:34

2 Answers 2


I assume that you don't mean "standing" in the legal sense (i.e. who has a right to sue over something).

The question of whether a building has structural integrity is an evidentiary issue. As a result, any competent evidence may be introduced to convince the finder of fact of the issue, and the finder of fact (in a civil matter) will resolve that issue based upon a preponderance of the evidence.

There are lots of ways that it could be proven (or disproven):

  • Some instances of lack of structural integrity would be so obvious that a mere authenticated photograph or video clip offered by a lay person would be sufficient to prove the issue.

  • A recent citation from a city inspector would argue strongly for a problem.

  • A recent issuance of a certificate of occupancy would argue strongly for a lack of a problem.

  • Any contractor with a license adequate to do that work would probably be competent to render an opinion.

  • Sometimes an architect would be competent to testify.

  • A licensed or certified building inspect might be competent to testify.

  • Structural integrity is usually the province of someone trained as a civil engineer with a structural engineering speciality. But often evaluating the condition of the soils would be considered a separate speciality to be evaluated by a soils engineer, often as a consultant whose work is used by the structural engineer to form an overall opinion.

Except in the case of a lack of structural integrity that it obvious to a lay person that can be proved with a simple photograph or video clip, or can be established with a citation or a certificate of occupancy, anyone presenting a factual opinion regarding the structural integrity of a building would have to be accepted by a court as an expert witness. A court's acceptance of someone as an expert witness is a process that would typically involve presentation of the qualifications of the expert in terms of education, licensure, experience, and history of publications in the area, as well as some defense of the validity of the discipline in which the expert witness is skilled as having a scientific basis and is relevant to the question at hand in this particular case.

In a fully litigated case, these issues are typically resolved in pre-trial motion practice and a pre-trial evidentiary hearing in the case of a dispute over whether the area in which the witness has expertise provides is a valid approach, as discipline, to answer the question in a scientifically reliable way. But this broad based attacks on an entire approach to addressing an issue don't usually come up in the case of the standard building and engineering professions.

Also, in a fully litigated case, the parties normally disclose an official report of the expert witnesses offered and make them available to be deposed prior to the trial. This requirement is often dispensed with, however, in litigation over preliminary matters.

The issue of what kind of expert testimony is competent to prove a disputed issue of fact is determined on a case by case basis. There is not a body of law that spells out in any real specificity what kind of evidence is or is not competent to prove the issue. The general rules of evidence apply and there might be (but probably isn't) case law under the rules of evidence for expert testimony that is on point to resolve your particular issue.

More often, there will be pronouncements in variously kinds of professional licensing statutes regarding what someone with a particular qualification is qualified to do, and those are evaluated with respect to a particular tendered witness in a manner that does not preclude someone else who might also have different qualifications that are also relevant to some aspect of the issue from also testifying to the factual issue presented.

Of course, that fact that an expert witness meets the minimum threshold to testify in court under the rules of evidence doesn't end the analysis. An expert witness is introduced in order to persuade the judge that the expert's opinion is correct. And, the more highly credentialed a witness is, the more relevant the credentials the witness holds, and the better the witness is at communicating the basis for the opinion of the witness to the judge or jury, the more likely it is that the finder of fact will give weight to the opinion of the witness and rule consistently with the opinion of the witness.

So, on one hand, a contractor or inspector would probably be less credible than a structural engineer working with a soils engineer. On the other hand, someone with great technical expertise who isn't a good communicator, or can't deftly respond to an opposing attorney's cross-examination question without falling into a "trap" laid by that attorney, could still be a poor expert witness.

Many technically skilled expert witnesses are more timid than necessary in formally giving opinions in court because they are used to discussing ideas in non-adversarial contexts where pointing out the limitations of your conclusions is welcomed and the colleague experts evaluating your opinion know not to give those limitations undue weight.

  • 1
    I think the OP ius asking not about a court proceeding, but about an HOA which bypasses normal notice requirements and votes to take action without giving notice toi all members because the expert indicates that swift action is needed. I think that is the intended meaning of "form a legal basis of necessity to bypass statute and bylaws requiring a vote.". If so, it could have been stated more clearly. Dec 14, 2020 at 0:01
  • 1
    @DavidSiegel I think that the OP contains a false premise that there is some particular profession or type of expertise that governs the question when this isn't the case. Instead, whether the HOA board makes the fall or a court makes the call, ultimately some non-expert will have to weigh the evidence and decide it is good enough without baseball-like rules to guide them.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 14, 2020 at 0:06
  • Quite possibly so. But I think the answer by @user6726 abut specific licensing of inspectors may be relevant. On the general concept of expert witnesses the above answer is first-rate. Dec 14, 2020 at 0:15
  • Good comments by all. Thoughtful posting from @ohwilleke. Question is posed within the context of the opening paragraph
    – gatorback
    Dec 14, 2020 at 3:36

This question appears to refer, indirectly, to Florida threshold inspectors.

Certain buildings known as threshold buildings (tall, or holding many people) have to have threshold building inspections performed by a state-certified Special Inspector. This is mandated under Chapter 553.71, Florida Statutes. Under that law,

“Special inspector” means a licensed architect or registered engineer who is certified under chapter 471 or chapter 481 to conduct inspections of threshold buildings.

A provision of the law (553.79(5)(a)) says that the government agency

shall require a special inspector to perform structural inspections on a threshold building pursuant to a structural inspection plan prepared by the engineer or architect of record


The special inspector shall determine that a professional engineer who specializes in shoring design has inspected the shoring and reshoring for conformance with the shoring and reshoring plans submitted to the enforcing agency.

The requirements for engineers under ch. 471 are here and for architects under ch. 481 are here. These laws preclude hiring a guy whose qualification is that he has a a truck. In addition, however,

The architect or engineer of record may act as the special inspector provided she or he is on the Board of Professional Engineers’ or the Board of Architecture and Interior Design’s list of persons qualified to be special inspectors.

It is also important to point out that

The licensed architect or registered engineer serving as the special inspector shall be permitted to send her or his duly authorized representative to the job site to perform the necessary inspections provided all required written reports are prepared by and bear the seal of the special inspector and are submitted to the enforcement agency

which means that the engineer does not have to go to the site.

However, your mention of "claim" confuses the issue, since "building integrity" issues are sorted out at the construction phase, and not at the post-collapse lawsuit phase. Since a person offering expert testimony in a liability suit does not use disposition codes, I assume you are not asking about admissible testimony.

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