A.T. v. Cohen

T.T., individually and on behalf of her three-year-old daughter, A.T., filed this medical malpractice action seeking damages from a hospital and several medical professionals for injuries caused during the child’s birth.1 The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants and dismissed the action with prejudice because plaintiff failed to serve a timely affidavit of merit. The Appellate Division affirmed, rejecting plaintiff’s argument that the circumstances should have supported entry of a dismissal without prejudice under Rule 4:37-1(b). After review, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment to defendants and remanded for further proceedings. The Court determined that a combination of circumstances (not the least of which was the failure to schedule a pretrial conference to address the affidavit of merit requirement as New Jersey case law directed), warranted allowing the untimely affidavit to be filed. "The equities militate in favor of permitting a facially meritorious action to proceed here, particularly because any prejudice to defendants may be addressed through costs imposed by the trial court. We decline to approve recourse to a voluntary dismissal without prejudice under Rule 4:37-1(b) as an appropriate avenue for addressing failures to comply with the affidavit of merit requirement, including when a minor is involved. Rather, we will require modification of the Judiciary’s electronic filing and notification case management system to ensure that, going forward, necessary and expected conferences are scheduled to enhance parties’ compliance with requirements under the Affidavit of Merit Statute (AMS or the statute), N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-26 to -29, in furtherance of the statutory policy goals." View "A.T. v. Cohen" on Justia Law