In order to file a negligence suit against a doctor, or any other professional in Pennsylvania, a plaintiff first must obtain a statement from an expert in the same field as the professional being sued indicating that the professional acted negligently. The plaintiff, or their attorney, must then file a Certificate of Merit with the court, certifying that such a statement from an expert has been obtained. The purpose of the Certificate of Merit requirement is to weed out frivolous professional liability claims. Currently, the Certificate of Merit rule, as written, only applies to claims asserted by plaintiffs who were actually patients, or clients, of the professional being sued. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether certificates of merit should also be required for claims brought by non-patient/non-client third parties.
In Bruno v. Erie Insurance, David and Angela Bruno sued their home owner’s insurance company, Erie, as well as an engineering company that hired the insurance company to investigate possible mold contamination in the Brunos’ home. The suit alleged that Erie, and the engineering company, told the Brunos that the mold was harmless. Subsequently, the Brunos developed serious health problems, which their doctors attributed to the mold. The court dismissed the claims against the engineering expert because the Brunos had failed to file a Certificate of Merit. On appeal, the Brunos argued that they did not need a Certificate of Merit because they were not clients/patients of the engineering company. The Superior Court disagreed, however, ruling that such a policy would thwart the purpose of the Certificate of Merit requirement. Now, the Supreme Court has decided to consider the question. Check back here to see whether the Supreme Court will extend the Certificate of Merit requirement to claims brought against professionals by non-client/non-patient third parties.