By Bruce Jervis
Expert opinion is almost always required to prove professional malpractice on the part of an architect or engineer. It is impossible to show that a defendant failed to meet the standards of care of the profession without establishing those standards and the defendant’s deviation from the standards. A recent case from New Jersey, while not addressing the admissibility of expert opinion at trial, considered the related issue of establishing the merit of a malpractice claim against an architect.
A New Jersey statute requires an affidavit of merit from “an appropriate licensed person” in order to proceed with a malpractice claim against an architect or an engineer. A construction contractor alleged negligent project management by an architect and submitted an affidavit from an engineer. The contractor contended project management was an overlapping area of expertise between the two professions, so an engineer was an appropriate person to express an opinion. The court disagreed, ruling that an affidavit from a “like-licensed” individual was required.
What do you think? Should engineers be allowed to offer opinions against architects, and vice versa? Are there overlapping areas of expertise between the two professions that make this appropriate in some situations?