Affidavit of Merit of Specialist Not Always Needed in Case Against a Specialist

By Michael Zerres

Generally speaking, when a plaintiff in New Jersey sues a board-certified medical specialist, an Affidavit of Merit is required to be served by the plaintiff’s attorney from a board-certified physician who is in the same specialty as the defendant(s) being sued. New Jersey’s Affidavit of Merit Statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27, et .seq. requires that, but only “where the care or treatment at issue involves that specialty.” So, for example, if a plaintiff is suing a gastroenterologist over a negligently performed colonoscopy, an Affidavit of Merit from a specialist in gastroenterology will be required as “the care or treatment at issue involves” gastroenterology. Ryan v. Renny 408 N.J. Super. 590 (app. Div. 2009) However, where the specialist care involves area of general medicine or an area of medicine outside his or her specialty, a plaintiff need not serve an Affidavit of Merit from a doctor who has the same specialty as the defendant(s). So says a federal Court in Jorden v. Glass, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20073, decided on March 5, 2010.

In Jorden, Dr. Glass was a specialist in psychiatry, treating his patient in a clinical trial for schizophrenia. However, the patient’s family alleges that Dr. Glass was negligent in the diagnosis and treatment of the patient when he presented to Lourdes Medical Center with chest pain. Ultimately, the patient died from a heart attack. In that situation, since the treatment of chest pain does not specifically involve the specialty of psychiatry, the plaintiff was not obligated to serve an Affidavit of Merit from a physician with a specialty in psychiatry. Rather, it was found that Affidavits of Merit of an internist and cardiologist, who do evaluate and treat chest pain, were sufficient.

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