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Certificate of Merit Requirement Extended to Federal Cases in Pennsylvania

In Scaramuzza v. Sciolla, 345 F.Supp. 2d 508 (E.D. Pa. 2004), the Plaintiff in this legal malpractice case did not timely file a Certificate of Merit. The Defendants moved for dismissal pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1042.3. The Plaintiff argued that the rule should not be applied in Federal Court since no Federal Court had held that Pa.R.C.P. 1042.3 was substantive law. Judge Baylson disagreed. He noted that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had already extended a similar rule to diversity cases in New Jersey. In Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F. 3d 154, 158-61 (3d. Cir. 2000), the Third Circuit ruled that New Jersey's affidavit of merit requirement must be applied as substantive state law.

Despite this, Judge Baylson held that dismissal was not appropriate. He found that the Plaintiff met the requirements set forth in Pa.R.C.P. 3051, although Plaintiff did file a Certificate of Merit five months after the deadline. Judge Baylson found that the Defendants were not prejudiced by the delay since discovery had not yet commenced. Furthermore, he found that Plaintiff's excuse for not filing a Certificate of Merit was excusable since the Third Circuit had not yet applied Pa.R.C.P. 1042.3 as substantive law.

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