Land surveyors are licensed in all 50 states in the U.S., but not all states require a survey prior to real estate transactions. Land surveyors work with algebra, calculus, geometry, and trigonometry. An attorney will probably need a land surveyor expert witness in a property dispute case. Land surveyors are required to know the laws of property and contracts.
The land surveyor emerged to define boundaries of ownership as early as 3,000 B.C. in Egypt when the first land registry was recorded. The essential land survey concept of measurements, heights, and angles has remained as consistent as the math behind it. The measurements use a combination of natural and artificial monuments.
While it is true that survey markers can shift or be lost over time, the land surveyor expert witness is generally found in cases involving professional negligence. Standards for land surveying can be set to one one-hundredths of a foot (approximately one-eighth of an inch). The difference of a few inches or feet may not seem like much, but it becomes the foundation of damages for quiet enjoyment of the property an individual thought he or she had purchased. Worse, it can result in roadblocks to building permits, ingress/egress, or even the halting of construction in progress.
In one recent case, a couple bought a home with the intention to add an addition, drew up plans, and obtained municipal approval. Even as the concrete poured for the foundation, a neighbor appeared with setback arguments. Defining boundaries of ownership is but one of the functions that can be performed by the land survey expert witness.
Stated in terms of typical lawsuits, the land surveyor expert witness speaks to construction of a structure, improvements on property, subdividing parcels, and purchasing real estate. Projects miscalculation where the liability of the land surveyor is at issue can include roads, railways, reservoirs, dams, bridges, and other critical public works projects like pipeline transport retaining walls.
by Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law