The Georgia Court of Appeals recently held in Jasarevic v. Foster that statements made by a physician in his or her medical records that are pertinent and material to a workers’ compensation claim are privileged as a matter of law and therefore cannot serve as the basis for a claim of libel.
Plaintiff Nedzad Jasarevic appealed from the trial court’s dismissal of his complaint against defendants Dr. John Foster and Dominion Orthopaedic Clinic. On appeal, Jasarevic contended that Dr. Foster committed libel by falsely accusing him of committing a crime and that the trial court therefore erred in dismissing his complaint. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling, reasoning that the statements were privileged, and as a result, Jasarevic could not prevail on his complaint.
The record showed that in 2008, Jasarevic suffered an injury on the job and filed a resulting workers’ compensation claim. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation appointed Dr. Foster to treat Jasarevic. In 2010, Dr. Foster concluded that Jasarevic could be released to work full-time again, but he continued to treat Jasarevic.
In 2012, Dr. Foster dictated a narrative report that was integrated into Jasarevec’s file regarding his workers’ compensation claim. In the report, Dr. Foster indicated that Jasarevic, via a translator, made threatening statements during an appointment. The report further indicated that Dr. Foster considered Jasarevic a threat to himself and his staff. The report finally noted that Dr. Foster refused to continue to treat Jasarevic.
Jasarevic brought a workers’ compensation suit pro se. He alleged that Dr. Foster’s statements prevented him from obtaining the medical care he needed. Jasarevic sought damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. Dr. Foster and Dominion Orthopaedic moved to dismiss, arguing (among other things) that statements made in workers’ compensation proceedings are privileged and cannot serve as the basis for a libel claim. The trial court agreed and dismissed Jarsarevic’s complaint.
The appellate court disagreed with Jasarevic’s argument that Dr. Foster’s statements regarding his threatening behavior constituted libel. Under Georgia law, statements made by a physician are privileged as a mater of law and cannot serve as a basis for a libel claim. Since Jasarevic’s allegations demonstrated that he could not be entitled to relief, and since the defendants showed that Jasarevic could not possibly introduce evidence within the framework of his complaint that would authorize the grant of relief he sought, the appeals court held that the trial court properly dismissed the complaint under relevant precedent. The court did not reach the other issues raised because they were rendered moot.
The appellate court affirmed the lower court ruling for these reasons.
If you are injured while at work in Atlanta, you should consider discussing your rights with a knowledgeable workers' compensation lawyer sooner rather than later. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a hardworking Fulton County workers' compensation attorney today, please call the Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford at (770) 922-3660 or get in touch with us online.
Jasarevic v. Foster, Ga: Court of Appeals 2016