Athletic Trainers Protected From Malpractice Claims By Workers' Compensation Immunity

A former NBA basketball player alleged that the team’s head athletic trainer was negligent in treating an injury. The trainer asserted workers’ compensation immunity from suit by a fellow employee. The plaintiff argued a licensed professional athletic trainer is not immune from malpractice claims because the Georgia Supreme Court had created an exception to § 34-9-11 when an injured employee brought a medical malpractice action against a company physician. The Court of Appeals, however, held there was no authority for concluding that the exception automatically applied whenever a co-employee was a professional who is subject to the authority of a professional licensing board, or for concluding that athletic trainers were, like physicians, classified as professionals whose foremost obligation was adherence to the public interest and whose professional status raised a unique duty of trust over and above the duties of co-employees. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment to the trainer.


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