On May 28, 2020, Houston appellate partner Andrew Johnson obtained affirmance of a trial court’s dismissal based on plaintiffs’ failure to serve a certificate of merit pursuant to Chapter 150 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
This wrongful-death lawsuit involved a highway construction project in which the decedent motorcyclist died after he drove into an alleged drop-off condition on an exit ramp. The decedent’s heirs filed suit against numerous parties, including a project engineering firm, R2M. R2M filed a motion to dismiss based on plaintiffs’ failure to file a certificate of merit. The plaintiffs attempted to avoid this requirement by couching their claims as not involving the practice of engineering. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that they were claiming R2M erred by failing to monitor site safety or have appropriate warning signs—things that purportedly do not require engineering skill or knowledge. The trial court disagreed and granted R2M’s motion to dismiss, and plaintiffs appealed.
Mr. Johnson was retained to handle the appeal. In a published opinion, the Amarillo Court of Appeals affirmed and set forth a detailed statutory analysis of Chapter 150. The Court explained why the certificate-of-merit requirement broadly applies in cases where the claimant’s damages arise out of the practice of engineering, even when the actual acts complained of arguably involve non-engineering work. Mr. Johnson says that the Court’s analysis will be useful in future Chapter 150 cases.