Summary judgment granted in favor of architect in professional negligence matter

Alonzo Washington has summary judgment granted in favor of an architect in a professional negligence matter pending in Frederick County, Maryland. Alonzo represented an architectural firm that was responsible for designing a cannabis-growing facility. The design work included the retention of an engineering firm to assist in the design of an HVAC system to control temperature and humidity throughout the grow facility. The facility was constructed and went into operation. Mold was discovered during the first harvest of cannabis in April 2018, which resulted in crop spoliation. The owners claim that the HVAC system’s dehumidification capacity was inadequate, which caused mold growth in the crops and resulted in losses. The owner filed suit in Frederick County, Maryland, alleging professional negligence against the architect and engineer.

In Maryland, a party alleging professional negligence must file a certificate of qualified expert (“CQE”) within ninety (90) days of the filing of a claim. Failure to file a CQE can result in the dismissal of the claim without prejudice. In the case at hand, the plaintiff failed to file the required CQE. Rather than immediately filing a motion to dismiss, the architect and engineer waited until the remainder of the statutory three (3) years to assert claims expired. After the three (3) year limitations period expired, a motion to dismiss was filed. The matter was dismissed without prejudice, and the plaintiff refiled the action. The defendants raised the statute of limitations to defend the untimely claims. The plaintiff asserted the discovery rule at the motion to dismiss stage, and discovery proceeded. At the close of discovery, motions for summary judgment were filed, arguing that the claims were untimely as the statute of limitations lapsed under Lumsden v. Design Tech Builders, Inc., 358 Md. 435 (2000). The motions were granted, and summary judgment was entered in favor of the architect and engineer.        

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