Certificate of Merit [Medical Malpractice] Law and Legal Definition

Certificate of merit is a certificate filed in a medical malpractice action. It is usually filed by the plaintiff’s attorney along with the complaint. In a certificate of merit, the plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney certifies that s/he has reviewed the facts of the case, and has consulted with a medical expert and arrived at the conclusion that the plaintiff’s action has merits.

Before filing a certificate of merit the plaintiff’s attorney will have to get the plaintiff’s medical records reviewed by another medical practitioner. The medical practitioner should also certify that the plaintiff’s health care provider drifted away from accepted medical practices in providing medical care, resulting in an injury to the plaintiff.

The following is an example of a state statute (Washington) relating to certificate of merit:

Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 7.70.150. Actions alleging violation of accepted standard of care-Certificate of merit required.

(1) In an action against an individual health care provider under this chapter for personal injury or wrongful death in which the injury is alleged to have been caused by an act or omission that violates the accepted standard of care, the plaintiff must file a certificate of merit at the time of commencing the action. If the action is commenced within forty-five days prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, the plaintiff must file the certificate of merit no later than forty-five days after commencing the action.

(2) The certificate of merit must be executed by a health care provider who meets the qualifications of an expert in the action. If there is more than one defendant in the action, the person commencing the action must file a certificate of merit for each defendant.

(3) The certificate of merit must contain a statement that the person executing the certificate of merit believes, based on the information known at the time of executing the certificate of merit, that there is a reasonable probability that the defendant's conduct did not follow the accepted standard of care required to be exercised by the defendant.

(4) Upon motion of the plaintiff, the court may grant an additional period of time to file the certificate of merit, not to exceed ninety days, if the court finds there is good cause for the extension.

(5) (a) Failure to file a certificate of merit that complies with the requirements of this section is grounds for dismissal of the case.

(b) If a case is dismissed for failure to file a certificate of merit that complies with the requirements of this section, the filing of the claim against the health care provider shall not be used against the health care provider in professional liability insurance rate setting, personal credit history, or professional licensing and credentialing.