The Certificate of Merit Law, Designed to Limit Frivolous Lawsuits Against Design Professionals


The Certificate of Merit law is designed to limit frivolous lawsuits against design professionals by assisting attorneys in assessing the technical merits of a potential case, prior to filing suit. The law requires that, before filing a lawsuit against a design professional, a plaintiff’s attorney must first consult with another design professional to determine if the suit has merit.

Types of Certificates

A certificate shall be executed by the attorney for the plaintiff or a cross-complaint declaring one of the following:

  • The attorney has reviewed the facts of the case and has consulted with at least one architect, engineer or land surveyor who is licensed in the same discipline as the defendant who the attorney believes is knowledgable in the relevant issues, and that the attorney has concluded on the basis of such review and consultation that there is reasonable and meritorious grounds for filing the action against the defendant design professional.
  • The attorney was unable to obtain the consultation required because a statute of limitation would prevent the action if the attorney waited to file the certificate. In this case, the attorney can delay filing the certificate for a 60-day period after filing the suit before the end of which period the certificate must still be filed.
  • The attorney can file a certificate stating that no consultation was obtained after making three separate good faith attempts to obtain such consultation, no architect, engineer, or land surveyor contacted would agree to such a consultation.

Priorities and Exceptions

  • An attorney, who submits the first or second form of certificate, has a privilege to refuse to disclose the identity of the architect, engineer, or land surveyor who has agreed to provide consultation.
  • An attorney, who submits the third form of certificate, may be required by the court to divulge the names of the design professionals contacted who refused to give consultation.

This is provided for informational purposes only and does not purport to be a legal opinion. For specific information regarding Certificate of Merit see the California Code of Civil Procedure §411.35 or consult an attorney. For more information please call the AIA CA Legislative Affairs Department at (916) 448-9082.

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