Several years ago (more than I want to count), I was putting together a program on liability and limitations on liability and ran across the 1994 Nebraska Supreme Court case of Lawyers Title v. Hoffman Engineers and Surveyors,1 (“Hoffman”). Title company v. surveyor cases always fascinate me for a number of important reasons, a few of which we will touch on, but the primary issues here are surveyor negligence, statues of limitation and professionalism. We are also going to look at the recent 2016 Nebraska Supreme Court case of Bixenmann v. Dickinson Land Surveyors,2 (“Dickinson”) handed down this past August, on these same issues and consider how the law turns.
In 1989, Jiffy Lube International Inc. hired Hoffman to prepare an “as built survey” of a Jiffy Lube facility. Hoffman, in turn, farmed the survey out to Carrell & Associates Inc. (“Carrell”), which performed the as-built survey for $600. Yes, even in 1989 dollars this is a ridiculously low fee for an as-built survey of a small commercial property, especially if you compare it to the attorney’s fees of $12,346.72 to prosecute the case for Lawyers Title. The survey was performed for less than one half of 1 percent of what the lawyers charged to get an adjudication in the case. Of course, this was only the fees Lawyers Title paid. It is highly likely that all the other parties in the case paid similar fees … but I digress.