Duty of Care of the Professional Land Surveyor

No One is Perfect. But Professional Land Surveyors, Like Any Other Professional, Are Expected to Practice with a "Reasonable Duty of Care"

Duty of Care: “n. a requirement that a person act toward others and the Public with the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use. If a person’s actions do not meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent, and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit for negligence.” –

Who or What Decides What's Reasonable? 

Professional Land Surveyors are required to act as a theoretical “Reasonable Land Surveyor” at all times. Who exactly that person is may not be easy to determine but a variety of primary sources including textbooks, journal articles, and state case law set specific expectations.

As an “expert” that has been asked to judgment another professional’s conduct, Dr. Nettleman takes a holistic approach. He puts himself in the shoes of the Professional Land Surveyor and completes the project as if he was that person. Then, Dr. Nettleman step-by-step does the research, completes the field survey, and makes a professional determination. Only then does Tony compare the textbooks/articles to the current situation to make a determination of negligence.

Dr. Nettleman has helped the courts to establish the standard of care dozens of times.

Recently, Dr. Nettleman has testified regarding:

  • Is a surveyor expected to review every page of a title commitment and report deficiencies to the client?
  • How should a surveyor apportion riparian rights on a lake’s cove?
  • May a surveyor interpret the rights of each party subject to an easement?
  • Is a surveyor required to know local zoning ordinances when he notes them on his plat?

Whether the Professional Land Surveyor’s conduct involves boundaries, easements, riparian rights, or land title, Dr. Nettleman’s vast experience can help you better understand a professional’s duty and care.

The Reasonable Land Surveyor

Land Surveying Textbooks

Cited over 250 times in civil court collectively, Clark on Surveying, Brown’s Boundary Control, and Evidence & Procedure for Boundary Location are THE Textbooks used by Practicing Surveyors and Surveying College Students to understand the duty of care for each type of land survey.

Dr. Nettleman was named the new author of Clark on Surveying in 2020 as well as a co-author of both Evidence & Procedure and Brown’s. Tony’s contributions so far have focused on filling-in missing areas within the texts concerning modern surveying practices. 

Wiley, Lexis, and the previous book’s authors look forward to the texts being carried-on by the next generation.

Court Cases

Finding good case law regarding Professional Land Surveyor standards is often difficult because there are only a few thousand active surveyors licensed in each state. But chances are, if it’s happened in your case, something similar has occurred before.

Don’t forget about the federal and state administrative courts. Land issues rarely seen in district courts arise more often in land-specific courts. A key lesson is to never stop searching for the sources that can help win your case!

Dr. Nettleman’s two decades of case law searches have allowed him to create a large database of the most useful surveying and land law cases. Often, a case previously relied upon will be useful in an upcoming case as well.

You can rely on Dr. Nettleman to find the case law necessary to establish the reasonable standard in any one of the 50 States.

Cases and Textbooks That Every Surveyor Should Read

Connelly v Smith
Cragin v Powell
Spainhour v Huffman Associates