Certificates of merit are intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits. Before a claim can be filed against a design professional, another design professional must certify that the alleged conduct failed to meet the professional standard of care.

A new Oregon statute requires that the certifying design professional have “similar credentials” to the design professional who is being sued. Under Oregon law, a “design professional” includes architects, landscape architects, professional engineers, and professional land surveyors. Previously, the statute was silent as to which design professionals could certify claims against other design professionals. Arguably, the new “similar credentials” requirement means that a licensed architect must support a certificate of merit for a claim against an architect, an engineer for an engineer, and so on.

Further, the statute adds to what must be certified, requiring that the certifying design professional be willing to testify that that the defendant design professional “failed to meet the standard of professional skill and care ordinarily provided by other design professionals with similar credentials, experience and expertise and practicing under the same or similar circumstances.” Oregon SB 383 (emphasis added). The “similar credentials, experience and expertise” is new language added by the statute. This amendment may give rise to new arguments about the adequacy of the plaintiff’s expert’s opinions if offered by a design professional who lacks credentials, experience, or expertise similar to the defendant professional. However, Oregon law does not permit expert discovery. So it is unclear how the “similar credentials” will be tested prior to trial.

The new statute will go into effect January, 2016.