Case Law Alerts
The New Jersey Supreme Court clarified recent interpretations of the “like-licensed” requirement of the Affidavit of Merit Statute.
Recent court rulings have interpreted the Affidavit of Merit Statute as requiring that a plaintiff secure an affidavit from an expert with equivalent licensure and credentials of the professional defendant. In Meehan, the plaintiff sought help for sleep apnea from an orthodontist, who fitted the plaintiff with a dental appliance that made the plaintiff’s symptoms worse and actually shifted the plaintiff’s teeth. The plaintiff served an Affidavit of Merit from a prosthodontist rather than an orthodontist. The defendant orthodontist moved to dismiss the claim because a “like-licensed” professional did not prepare the Affidavit of Merit. The Supreme Court clarified and relaxed the procedural requirements of the various Affidavit of Merit Statutes by ruling that the “like-licensed” standard is applicable only to medical malpractice lawsuits filed pursuant to the Patients First Act. Although not directly about architects, engineers or other licensed design professionals, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Meehan directly impacts design professionals. Within its rationale, the Supreme Court held that in all other actions against a licensed professional, the affiant must hold an appropriate license and must demonstrate particular expertise in the general area or specialty involved in the action, but he or she is not required to possess credentials equivalent to those of the licensed professional defendant. The court did not limit its holding to only those licensed professional defendants within the medical malpractice arena. In doing so, the court effectively relaxed the procedural requirements imposed on plaintiffs when bringing a professional negligence action against architects and engineers. While recent case law had begun to impose stricter requirements—i.e., requiring a “like-licensed” expert—Meehan simply makes bringing a professional negligence action against architects and engineers a bit easier.
Case Law Alerts, 4th Quarter, October 2016. Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2016 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.