Certificates of Merit are documents intended to show that a true issue exists with a professional’s work, prior to that person being sued. While North Carolina does require that a person suing a medical provider first have the matter reviewed by a professional (and attest to that in the Complaint), there is no requirement for any review prior to a lawsuit against an architect, engineer, or surveyor. Thus, anyone can file a lawsuit against an engineer/architect/surveyor without first having their case
eyeballed reviewed by another professional.
Over the years, there have been attempts at adding a Certificate of Merit requirement to design professional lawsuits. See, for example, examples here: from 2005; from 2007; from 2011; and from 2013.
While many states do have Certificates of Merit for lawsuits against licensed design professionals, North Carolina, to date, does not. This is a shame, because having a professional review a potential error *before* a party spends the time and money to file a lawsuit, can only help eliminate frivolous, merit-less claims. To win a lawsuit against a design professional, a party will need to have an expert testify that they were negligent. The Certificate of Merit just ensures that there truly is a valid dispute before a design professional’s name and reputation get pulled into expensive, perhaps unnecessary, litigation.
Would a requirement for a Certificate of Merit eliminate unnecessary claims? Perhaps not. But, it gives all parties an honest “first look” at the alleged design errors before the lawyers
sharpen their claws begin filing their lawsuits.
Share your thoughts on such certificates in the comments, below.