Certificate of Merit

Certificate of Merit

Talking Points

  • Certificate of merit laws protect design professionals from baseless claims made against them.
  • Allowing a third party design professional to review the facts of a claim ensures that false claims are terminated in the early stages, which will reduce both expenses as well as congestion in the court system.

NSPE Position
NSPE supports the adoption of a certificate of merit law to reduce baseless claims against design professionals. A certificate of merit would require that the plaintiff make a real effort to establish justification for the claim. This gives the defendant (the design professional) an opportunity to know the nature and scope of the alleged negligence.

Background
Professional engineers face a substantial degree of liability exposure for breach of contract, property damage, personal injury, and wrongful death resulting from alleged negligence or malpractice in the course of their duties. Design professionals, who are presumed to have malpractice insurance, are often targets of suits filed by injured parties seeking relief from anyone even remotely involved in an alleged death, injury or damage. Many malpractice and negligence claims brought against design professionals may have no material basis or justification in fact or in law. Nevertheless, these suits are a source of considerable cost to design professionals in terms of direct expenses, increased insurance premiums, lost productivity, and tarnished professional reputation. In an effort to curb the number of baseless claims brought against design professionals, several states have adopted a certificate of merit statute. A certificate of merit requires the plaintiff to consult with a third party design professional to review the facts of their claim before moving it forward. Only if the design professional declares that there is a reasonable basis for the claim can the plaintiff file with the court. This also allows the defendant to determine whether to contest the suit or possibly settle. This will result in the termination of non-meritorious actions their early stages, thus saving expenses for all parties and reducing court congestion.

References
Professional Policy 160 – Model Engineers' Certificate of Merit Law

A State-by-State Summary of Liability Laws Affecting the Practice of Engineering – Professional Liability Committee of the Professional Engineers in Private Practice, a division of NSPE, in cooperation with Victor Schinnerer & Co., Inc. – 2007

Issue Brief and Position: