California Plaintiff’s Failure to File a Timely Expert Certificate Results in Dismissal of Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case brought by a man who was injured when the crane he was operating tipped over. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the relation-back doctrine and its applicability to the facts at hand. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s late-filed certificate did not relate back to his original filing, and thus his case was barred by the statute of limitations.

The Certificate Requirement

In California, certain cases alleging professional negligence must be accompanied by a certificate from an expert in the field, indicating that in the expert’s opinion, the plaintiff’s case has merit. Alternatively, if there is not time to obtain this certificate before the statute of limitations expires, a party can submit a certificate of excuse asking for additional time. Under the relevant statute, a certificate of excuse must be filed within 60 days of the filing of the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when the crane he was operating tipped over. The date of the plaintiff’s injury was May 5, 2014. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim on May 3, 2016 against the company that was providing engineering services at the job site where the injury occurred. The relevant statute of limitations was two years, so the plaintiff filed the case just two days before the deadline.

On December 1, 2016, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint and attached a certificate from an expert in engineering. The defendant objected, arguing that the certificate was not filed in a timely manner, and it asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case because it was then past the time allowed by the statute of limitations. The trial court denied the defendant’s request, and the defendant immediately appealed to a higher court.

On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant. The court explained that the general rule is that a certificate must be filed at or before the time the defendant is served with notice of the lawsuit. However, the court also acknowledged that the statute does allow for a plaintiff to ask for additional time by filing a certificate of excuse. However, the plaintiff in this case did not file such a certificate within the 60-day time limit.

The plaintiff asked that the amended complaint be permitted despite its lateness because it related back to the original filing. Under the relation-back doctrine, a court can consider a late-filed document as timely if it relates to the original filing and is based on the same set of facts. However, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument in this case, explaining that the statutory framework for professional negligence cases clearly requires the certificate to be filed in a timely manner, and it provides a way for plaintiffs who cannot comply to obtain additional time. The court also noted that the plaintiff’s position was against the clear intentions of lawmakers when they enacted the framework.

Have You Been Injured in a California Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of California accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a California personal injury lawsuit. All personal injury cases that involve professional negligence must have a certificate filed in a timely manner. This includes medical malpractice cases, as well as other cases that involve a professional’s negligent conduct. To learn more about California personal injury law and how it applies to your case, call 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Off-Duty Los Angeles Police Officer Arrested after Fatal DUI Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2017

California Car Accident Plaintiff Misses Out on Opportunity to Cross-Examine Defense Medical Expert, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2017

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