Feb 4, 2016

Jasarevic v. Foster – Statements Made by Physician in Workers’ Compensation Claim are Privileged

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.

Additional Resources:

Jasarevic v. Foster, Ga: Court of Appeals 2016