In a decision interpreting Chapter 150, CPRC, the Houston Court of Appeals has held that a non-practicing architect that holds an emeritus-architect license is qualified to offer a certificate of merit supporting a claim against practicing non-emeritus licensed architect.

Thompson Hancock Witte & Associates, Inc. v. Brazos Presbyterian Homes, Inc. (No. 14-20-00827-CV) arose from the flooding to Brazos’s building as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Brazos sued Thompson, the architectural firm, for defective design. Brazos attached a certificate of merit prepared by a licensed emeritus architect (Figert), who opined that Thompson breached the pertinent standard of care in the design of a retaining wall. Thompson moved to dismiss under Chapter 150, CPRC, which requires a claimant who sues an architect to serve a qualifying certificate of merit prepared by an architect holding “the same professional license or registration as the defendant,” alleging that Figert was unqualified because he held a different license than the architect on record for the project and could not actively practice as a consequence of his emeritus status. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and Thompson appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed. After reviewing Chapter 150 and the pertinent sections of the Occupations Code (Chapter 1051) pertaining to the practice of architecture, the court determined that the plain language of the statutes did not support Thompson’s claims. The Occupations Code permits emeritus architects to practice architecture, including “to consult, analyze, and investigate buildings and their environs and then and render ‘expert opinions’ regarding the ‘design, form, aesthetics, materials, and construction technology used for the construction, enlargement, or alteration of’ those buildings or environs (citations omitted). The statute has no language limiting an emeritus architect’s opinions only to buildings on which the emeritus could serve as the architect of record, as Thompson urged. The Legislature could have added that limitation to the statute, but it did not. Moreover, emeritus status should not be confused with “inactive” status.

Declining to write a new limitation into the statute, the court of appeals held that Figert’s certificate of merit met the statutory requirements.

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