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PA: Multiple Defendants, Single Certificate of Merit

Salamoni v. Karoly, 2005 WL 3823056, 74 Pa. D. & C.4th 378 (Pa.Com.Pl. 2005)

PA Underlying personal injury claim

Student Contributor: Christopher S. Henn

Facts: Plaintiff suffered personal injuries after being struck by a car. Plaintiff engaged the Defendant attorney, Karoly, to seek recovery for his injuries in the accident. Defendants filed for issuance of a summons one day before the expiration of the applicable two-year statute of limitations. It was issued the same day but expired a month later because it was never delivered to the sheriff for service.

After the summons was reinstated, however, Plaintiff’s case was dismissed on summary judgment because of the expiration of the statute of limitations. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant Karoly and his associate for legal malpractice. Despite naming two Defendants, Plaintiff submitted a single certificate of merit as to both defendants. The Clerk of the Court, therefore, dismissed the malpractice action for failure to prosecute.

Issue: Is a single certificate of merit sufficient where there are multiple defendants?

Ruling: The Court held:

It was not the clerk’s function to evaluate the sufficiency of this certificate. The clerk was without authority to enter a judgment of non pros under these circumstances…Where several defendants acting together are responsible for the same negligent act or omission, a single certificate of merit naming both or all defendants [is sufficient].

Lesson: The purpose of filing a certificate of merit is to ensure that the Plaintiff has not asserted a frivolous claim against the Defendant for professional negligence. Although the Plaintiff here did not comply with the technical requirements of Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Merit rule for each separate Defendant, the Court found that the purpose of the requirement had been fulfilled “[w]here both parties [were] jointly responsible for the same negligent act or omission”.

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Posted in: Affidavit/Certificate of Merit, Pennsylvania, Torts/Personal Injury