Certificate of merit from engineer satisfies requirement, appeals court rules

Steve Korris May 10, 2011, 5:12am

Engineer Chander Nangia must defend himself in an Orange County suit alleging defects in a prefabricated steel building, Ninth District appeals judges decided on May 5.

They affirmed District Judge Dennis Powell, who ruled that state law granted building owner Steve Taylor a 30-day grace period to file a certificate of merit from an engineer supporting his claim.

They also coldly rejected Nangia's argument that Taylor's engineer, Sina Nejad, didn't address each of Taylor's causes of action.

Justice David Gaultney wrote that state law "does not require that the third party licensed engineer explain the law to the trial court."

Taylor originally sued ICON Building Systems, which erected the structure, in 2008.

He amended his petition last year to add Nangia.

He claimed Nangia affixed his professional stamp to a package of drawings and falsely certified that they met appropriate standards.

Taylor didn't file a certificate of merit, and Nangia moved 23 days later to dismiss. Taylor amended his petition five days later, providing a certificate and Nejad's affidavit.

Nejad wrote that "main frame columns and beams both failed in the dead and live load analysis."

"The wind load analysis resulted in failures of the main frame columns and beams, the wall girts, the roof purlins, and the eave struts," he wrote. "These members failed in both flexure and shear."

He wrote that the design should have included an analysis like the one he performed.

Nangia persisted in moving to dismiss, arguing the affidavit arrived too late and failed to address each cause of action.

Taylor answered that he met requirements for a grace period by explaining why he filed late. Nangia claimed he should have provided the explanation when he added Nangia to the suit.

Powell agreed with Taylor on the grace period and found Nejad's affidavit sufficient.

Ninth District judges saw it the same way.

"Nangia asserts Taylor failed to allege in his second amended petition that Taylor could not provide a certificate of merit because of a looming statute of limitations problem," Gaultney wrote.

"As we understand the statute, if the plaintiff does not contemporaneously file the certificate of merit with its initial petition against the professional, the affidavit is timely if, within 30 days of that initial filing, the plaintiff satisfies the statutory exception," he wrote.

"The statutorily required explanation and the certificate of merit were filed within 30 days of Taylor's initial filing of his claim against Nangia," Gaultney wrote.

He wrote that Powell didn't abuse his discretion when he found the certificate satisfactory.

"The focus of the certificate of merit is on the alleged error or omission and the facts that support the claim," he wrote.

Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justices Charles Kreger agreed.

Kenneth Lewis and Thomas Peterson represented Taylor.

William Luyties represented Nangia.

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