If you are considering suing a licensed professional for malpractice in the state of New Jersey, it is important to be aware of the legal requirements that must be met before your case can proceed. One of these requirements is the submission of an Affidavit of Merit, a document that attests to the merits of your claim and is signed by an appropriately licensed professional.
The New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute (codified at N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-26 to -29) was enacted to prevent frivolous lawsuits from being filed against licensed professionals, but it can also be a source of confusion and frustration for those who are not familiar with its requirements. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of the New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute and what you need to know if you are suing a licensed professional.
What is the New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute?
The New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute is a law that was enacted in 1995 to address concerns about the increasing number of frivolous malpractice lawsuits being filed against licensed professionals in New Jersey. The law requires that a plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit against a licensed professional must provide an Affidavit of Merit from an appropriately licensed professional.
The Affidavit of Merit must be provided within 60 days of the filing of the complaint, and it must attest to the merits of the plaintiff's claim. The licensed professional who provides the Affidavit of Merit must be in the same field as the defendant and must have reviewed the case and concluded that there is a reasonable probability that the defendant's actions deviated from the accepted professional standard of care and that this deviation caused the plaintiff's injury or damages.
Why is the New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute Important?
The New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute is important because it helps to prevent frivolous malpractice lawsuits from being filed against licensed professionals. The law ensures that before a lawsuit can proceed, there must be a showing that the plaintiff has a valid claim that is supported by an appropriately licensed professional.
This requirement helps to protect licensed professionals from the expense and burden of defending against frivolous lawsuits that have no merit. Additionally, it helps to ensure that plaintiffs do not waste their time and resources pursuing a lawsuit that has little chance of success.
Failure to Provide an Affidavit of Merit
If the plaintiff fails to provide an Affidavit of Merit within the required time frame, the defendant may file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. If the court grants this motion, the lawsuit will be dismissed, and the plaintiff will not be able to pursue their claim.
In most New Jesey malpractice cases, the Court will schdeulde a conference, called a Ferreira conference, to address issues iwth the Affidavit of Merit. Essentially, a Ferreira conference is a meeting between the parties involved in a malpractice lawsuit, including
the plaintiff, defendant(s), and their respective attorneys.
The primary concerns addressed at a Ferreira conference is the sufficiency of the plaintiff's Affidavit of Merit. The judge will review the Affidavit of Mert to ensure it meets the necessary requirements and will hear any objections by any parties to the sufficienty of the Affidavit.
New Jersey Courts have held:
"Our decision in Ferreira requires that an accelerated case management conference be held within ninety days of the service of an answer in all malpractice actions. That conference will allow the courts to head off potential discovery problems before they become the stuff of motions. At the case management conference, the defendant will be obliged to bring to the plaintiff's attention any deficiency in an affidavit of merit already served in order to give the plaintiff the opportunity to cure the defect within the 120–day period. In the event that the affidavit has not been served, the court will remind the parties of their respective obligations. We trust that early court intervention will make the circumstances of this case unlikely to recur." See, Knorr v. Smeal, 178 N.J. 169, 182, 836 A.2d 794 (2003); A.T. v. Cohen, 231 N.J. 337, 346-47 (2017)
The New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute is an important law that helps to ensure that malpractice lawsuits filed against licensed professionals in New Jersey have merit. The law requires that a plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit provide an Affidavit of Merit from an appropriately licensed professional within 60 days of filing the complaint. This requirement helps to prevent frivolous lawsuits from being filed against licensed professionals, while also ensuring that valid claims are pursued. If you have been injured as a result of a licensed professional's actions, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of the New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Statute and help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state as certain rules differ in other states.