Before suing an architect or engineer for professional negligence, a plaintiff must obtain a “certificate of merit” (“Certificate”) under Code of Civil Procedure section 411.35. Boiled down to the basics, the Certificate declares that the attorney consulted with and received an opinion from an expert that a reasonable and meritorious case exists against said design professional. The Certificate must be filed before serving the complaint on any defendant, but can be filed within 60 days under certain circumstances. This rule was recently analyzed against another long-standing rule in California, known as the “relation-back doctrine.” Under the relation-back doctrine, a court will deem a later-filed pleading, such as an amended complaint, to be deemed filed at the time of an earlier complaint.
In Curtis Engineering Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego County, No. D072046, (Cal. Ct. App. 10/23/17), the Fourth Appellate Court considered the interplay between section 411.35 and the relation-back doctrine, holding that a Certificate filed more than 60 days after filing the original pleading does not relate back to the filing of the original pleading.
Reprinted courtesy of Steven Cvitanovic, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Stephen Tye, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
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