Tort reform in Texas has made it critical for plaintiffs to ensure that all threshold requirements are met before filing lawsuits against certain professionals. Failure to comply with certain conditions precedent may have dire consequences. Texas law requires a plaintiff to file a certificate of merit contemporaneously with a lawsuit against certain licensed or registered professionals. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 150.002 (West).
A licensed or registered professional is defined in the code as a licensed architect, licensed professional engineer, registered professional land surveyor, or registered landscape architect. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 150.001 (West). The petitioner must file with the complaint an affidavit by the correct type of third-party professional. The requirement under the law for the affidavit arises out of the legislature’s desire to curb frivolous and unmeritorious claims against certain types of professionals.
While there is a limited exception outlined in the code when limitations are fast approaching, failing to file the affidavit contemporaneously with the petition will have adverse consequences. Omitting the affidavit with the filing requires the court to dismiss the suit, and such dismissal may be with or without prejudice. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 150.002 (West). Most trial courts have chosen to dismiss cases where the plaintiff has failed to comply without prejudice, meaning a plaintiff may choose to refile. However, some plaintiffs may find their claims barred if they are forced to refile after the applicable limitation period has expired.
Construction litigation is a complex area for the unwary plaintiff. It is important to consult an experienced construction lawyer if you are considering prosecuting a claim against architects, engineers or surveyors.
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