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Providing information upon which others rely involves the consulting geologist being potentially liable to several kinds of claimants under varying standards depending on the legal characterization of the behavior of the geologist.
The broadest liability arises when the geologist participates directly in a scheme that is subsequently determined to have involved misrepresentations of material facts upon which others relied to their detriment.
The geologist in public practice is required to exercise professionally competent judgment for the benefit of those contracting for the geologic services. This raises the problems of the precise standard to which geologists are going to be held, which requires defining the legal nature of the science of geology.
Under particular circumstances a geologist may have a positive duty to disclose knowledge of potential geologic hazards in a project to the public authorities despite the existence of a confidential or contractual relationship with the project's sponsor. A failure to act can result in liability.
A geologist's participation in political action as a citizen, individually or allied with others in somewhat formal groups, may lead to liability for misstatements or improperly prepared public criticism that delays or damages a project. Although a geologist enjoys the same freedom of speech and action as other citizens, there are limits to constitutional liberties beyond which private liability is possible.
The consultant needs to consider the legal implications of the contractual relationship and the opinion given, including conflicts of interest, confidentiality, proprietary rights to data, and qualification of opinions.
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