Karen Brain responds to Jeffrey Casciani-Wood about the use of reported dimensions in reports

In the June edition of the Report Magazine, Jeffrey Casciani-Wood submitted a letter to the editor and invited Karen Brain to give a comment on the following, when he wrote: ‘Perhaps the most common of the errors that I have seen over the years is the use of so-called reported dimensions, not measured ones. I should point out that the marine surveyor’s report is a legal document and therefore requires content that he/she has measured, weighed, tested, or examined, whatever, not what he/she has been told by a third party who may, or may not, have given him/her valid and correct information. Reported dimensions are hearsay and, as such, are not admissible in Court, except under very special circumstances.

The precise definitions of the principal dimensions of a boat up to 24 metres in length are given in the publicly available document ISO8666, a copy of which should be in every small craft marine surveyor’s library. I would like to see Karen Brain’s comments on this paragraph’. Jeffrey Casciani-Wood

Karen Brain, Matrix Insurance Ltd., accepted Jeffrey’s invitation and has replied as follows: ‘Most of the claims we see arise from:
– not checking, or rather not being able to evidence checking of something on a vessel;
– commenting in a way that infers something about a part on a vessel that should not be commented on e.g. condition of an engine;
– the general construction of a report, its content and unfortunately sometimes, the use of the English language; it is also sometimes evident that surveyors do not understand what needs to be said in a report to cover the client’s expectations and the surveyor’s duty of care.
– what their findings really mean in terms of potential expenditure to the client in the future i.e. are they aware it could be thousands of pounds of work needing to be done – if known, or suggesting they may wish to consider engaging a professional to check and provide a quote.
– and one that frequently gives rise to claims is not drawing to the attention of purchasers to the requirement, including timescales, of further checks required by other professionals – the hull is frequently a problem area.

As Jeffrey mentions, sometimes surveyors do not check facts and rely on information from unsubstantiated sources. No surveyor should accept a third party’s figures and/or information to use in a report to a client unless it is from a paid professional, preferably paid for by the surveyor, to provide them with the figures and/or information, or alternatively, you are looking at setting out and agreeing contractual terms to ensure the surveyor is exempt from liability for any losses resulting from the use in their report of figures and information provided by a third party – a caveat.

I will not mention terms and conditions here, but they are also very important and this would be a lengthy article in its own right. But it is equally important to state in a report to a client what has not been looked at and why – maybe reference to terms and conditions, or stating clearly the reason, such as perhaps being unable to access a specific area. It is always good to include suggestions for checks the client may wish to consider, for example, before purchasing a vessel e.g. engaging an electrician or an engineer to check certain things, or perhaps have a boatyard check the hull.

Sometimes timescales are omitted from a report, for example, to ensure the client understands the urgency to have something checked on a vessel.

Surveyors should advise clients if they have used third-party information and its source and state whether it can potentially be relied upon or should be checked, and they may wish to mention any consequences, particularly with fishing vessels and length.

You could, as Jeffrey has said, call them simple errors and in fact, interestingly the majority of claims against professionals in other professions, such as solicitors and accountants, could be deemed simple errors e.g. just not checking facts and reliability of sources of information.

Hearsay is a very interesting topic on which there are a substantial number of books written, so I will not go into that area of law’. Karen Brain

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