NJ LSRPs Open to Frivolous Claims
Despite the new licensing program for environmental consultants in New Jersey, they still remain open to professional tort claims without the necessity of an affidavit of merit. As required by N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27, a plaintiff making a claim for malpractice or negligence against a “licensed person” must provide an, “affidavit of an appropriate licensed person that there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in the treatment, practice, or work that is the subject of the complaint, fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.”
Fifteen different types of “licensed persons” are subject to this requirement. N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-26. However, “licensed person” does not include “environmental consultants” broadly, though environmental engineers, licensed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:8-27, do fall within the definition of “licensed persons.” Those environmental consultants who are geologists by education and training and/or in the past, licensed pursuant to the requirements of the Underground Storage Tank Certification Program, N.J.S.A. 58:10A-24.1-8, are not included within the definition of “licensed person.”
In establishing Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (“LSRP”) in the Site Remediation Reform Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10C-1 et seq., the legislature did not add LSRP’s to the definition of “Licensed Person” for purposes of compliance with New Jersey’s affidavit of merit statute. Perhaps the issue is the mandate of the LSRP to, first and foremost, protect the “public health and safety and the environment,” N.J.S.A. 58:10C-16, as opposed to first serving the interest of their clients, though requiring an affidavit of merit does not appear to be inconsistent with such broad goals. In any event, LSRP’s must be aware that this new license alone does not appear to afford them the potential protections from frivolous law suits afforded by the affidavit of merit statute.