Certificate Of Merit Not Required In Litigation Seeking Damages Where No Licensed Or Registered Professionals Identified

by Pillsbury - Gravel2Gavel Construction & Real Estate Law
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In the case of CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc. v. Springer, et al., the Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, sitting in Beaumont, decided an interlocutory appeals brought by the Appellant CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc. The Court of Appeals concluded that the “trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied CH2M’s motion to dismiss” based upon the evidence before it, and affirmed the trial court’s order. The Court of Appeals noted that

While the record contains evidence that CH2M is registered with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, the record does not contain any evidence that a licensed or registered professional practices within CH2M. Scott Neeley, Senior Designated Manager, signed the agreement between CH2M Hill and the Appellees. Mr. Neeley has not been shown to be a ‘licensed or registered professional,’ nor did he sign the contract as such. Moreover, the report is not signed by a licensed or registered engineer, but only issued by ‘CH2M Hill.’ CH2M has not proven, or even identified a single licensed professional engineer who performed professional engineering services for the firm.

We conclude CH2M has failed to meet its burden of proof to show an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

The Appellant was engaged by the City of Beaumont to evaluate the City’s water distribution and sewer collection service, and submitted a report very critical of the service and some of its employees. After receiving the report, the City demoted, discharged and terminated several employees. These employees later filed this lawsuit against CH2M Hill seeking damages for defamation, tortious interference with a contract and other claims.

The Appellant then filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit because the plaintiffs failed to timely file a “certificate of merit,” as required by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which applies to any action for damages arising out of the provision of professional services by a licensed or registered professional. The plaintiffs then pointed out to the court that while CH2M Hill itself is registered with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, there is no evidence in the record of “a single licensed professional engineer who has performed engineering services for the firm.” After a hearing, the trial court denied CH2M’s motion, and CH2M consequently filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying CH2M’s motion to dismiss.

Because no licensed or registered professionals were identified, not certificate of merit was required. As a result, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied CH2M’s motion to dismiss.

 

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Pillsbury - Gravel2Gavel Construction & Real Estate Law
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