Iowa’s Certificate of Merit Statute Has Teeth

Amazing! Iowa’s Certificate of Merit Statute Has Teeth

Information about Iowa’s Certificate of Merit Statute Has Teeth

Phil Puccio

In 2017, Iowa enacted a law aimed at early dismissing baseless medical malpractice claims. The law, Iowa Code Section 147.140, requires a plaintiff to provide a certificate of earnings signed by an expert witness within 60 days of the respondent’s response. The certification must address the standard of care and the defendant’s alleged violation of that standard. If the plaintiff does not present such a certificate, the defendant can request dismissal with prejudice. Now that the law has been on the books for several years, the cases are finally reaching the courts of appeal, setting a precedent for how lower courts should apply the law.

One of these recent cases is Struck v Mercy Health Services-Iowa Corp., a case defended by the team at Lamson Dugan & Murray. In beaten, a plaintiff fell in her hospital room. The plaintiff brought an action for medical malpractice. When the plaintiff failed to produce a statement of earnings, the district court dismissed the suit. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the medical malpractice lawsuit, but concluded that the lawsuit also alleged a claim of ordinary negligence. The Court of Appeal justified this by saying that this claim for simple negligence did not require proof of earnings and rejected the claim for simple negligence.

The Supreme Court granted another review. It disagreed with the Court of Appeal, concluding that the plaintiff’s request contained only a claim of malpractice and no claim of simple negligence. Noting that the Statement of Merit Act aimed to dismiss unfounded cases early, the Supreme Court stated that it would not allow a professional negligence claim to be classified as a simple negligence claim in order to circumvent the Statement of Merit Act .

beaten is to date the only case decided by the Supreme Court on the Certificate of Earnings Act. However, the Court of Appeal decided a few more cases under the law. In Butler v. Iyer, the Court of Appeal ruled that a statement of earnings that was served 18 days late was essentially inconsistent with the law. The court also ruled that the defendants did not waive the requirements of the law by serving the disclosure on the plaintiff before the plaintiff’s certificate of merit was due.

And in McHugh vs. Smith, the Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiff’s initial disclosures and questionnaires identifying experts did not amount to material compliance with the law. The court explained that the law required certification in the form of an affidavit signed by an expert and that interviews and initial interviews did not amount to such an affidavit. When the plaintiff finally submitted an affidavit, it came more than 60 days after the defendant’s reply, which was too late.

To date, the Iowa Courts of Appeals have upheld the dismissal of several cases for failure to comply with the Certificate of Merit Act. The law thus fulfills its stated purpose of bringing legal disputes to a timely conclusion without expert substantiation of an allegation of a suspect’s breach of due diligence. The law is a powerful weapon in the hands of experienced medical malpractice attorneys.

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