In Meehan v. Antonellis, the New Jersey Supreme Court addressed the different standards applicable to Affidavits of Merit (“AOM”) in professional malpractice actions. The facts involved an orthodontist who was sued for dental malpractice by a former patient for side effects arising from a treatment for sleep apnea. The patient submitted an AOM from a prosthodontist who had twenty years’ experience in the treatment of sleep apnea. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, stating that the AOM was required to be from a professional in the same specialty or subspecialty (a “like-qualified professional”) as the defendant, and since the AOM did not come from an orthodontist, it was insufficient. The Appellate Division affirmed.
The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the lower courts. In doing so, it confirmed that the requirement that the affiant be a like-qualified professional applies only in medical malpractice cases. The Court held that, in all other malpractice actions involving licensed professionals who are not physicians, the affiant need only be a professional with a valid license, who has a particular expertise in the general area or specialty involved in the action. The Court then went on to hold that since the prosthodontist, who had provided the AOM in the present case, had twenty years’ experience in the treatment of sleep apnea, the area in which the action arose, the AOM was sufficient.