• Affidavit of Merit is Key to Defense of Legal Malpractice Claim
  • April 21, 2011 | Author: Christopher J. Hoare
  • Law Firms: Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. - New York Office ; Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. - Philadelphia Office
  • Pursuant to New Jersey’s Affidavit of Merit Statute, plaintiffs alleging legal malpractice claims must demonstrate that the complaint is meritorious by submitting the affidavit of an appropriately licensed attorney stating that there exists a “reasonable probability” that the care, skill or knowledge in the work that is the subject of the compliant fell outside acceptable professional standards. The affidavit must be provided to the defendant within 60 days of the filing of the Answer or, if good cause is shown, an additional 60 day period. The plaintiff’s failure to serve the affidavit within 120 days of the filing of the Answer is tantamount to a failure to state a cause of action and warrants dismissal of the complaint, with prejudice, absent some equitable justification. Ferreira v. Rancocas Orthopedic Assocs., 178 N.J. 144, 149- 150, 836 A.2d 779 (2003) (citations omitted). Additionally, the courts have recently held that an affidavit is required whenever the underlying allegations in a claim require proof of a deviation from professional legal standards, regardless of whether the cause of action is based on contractual or tortuous claims.