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Workers' Compensation and Medical Malpractice

     What happens if an injured employee in a workers' compensation case is further injured by a treating doctor?  In determining who qualifies as a third-party, it is perhaps best to look at an umbrella rule of thumb and then examine examples and exceptions to the rule. A third-party eligible to be sued by an injured worker is one who is unconnected to the injured worker's employer whose negligent actions give rise to the worker's injuries or who cause further exacerbation or aggravation of the injuries. A doctor or hospital can be a third-party when an injured worker who has suffered an additional injury or disability due to medical malpractice while being treated for a work-related injury. Erwin v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am., 2012 LEXIS 406 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010). However, a hospital cannot be sued for malpractice when the injured worker is an employee of the hospital despite the argument of the "dual capacity doctrine." Tennessee has not allowed an employer to be sued in tort even though the employer may have been acting in a "dual capacity." In McAlister v. Methodist Hosp. of Memphis, 550 S.W.2d 240 (Tenn. 1977), the Court held:

Nothing in Sec. 50-914, T.C.A. may be construed to evince a legislative intent that an employer may ever be classified as a "third person", without doing violence to the plain language which permits common law suits against "some person other than the employer". The employer is the employer; not some person other than the employer. It is that simple. The injured workman is confined to the benefits provided by the Workmen's Compensation Act and may not sue his employer in tort.

Id. at 245-246 (Tenn. 1977)(emphasis added). Likewise, it is probable that an individual doctor employed by the hospital would also be shielded from a malpractice action as a co-employee. See The Exclusiveness of an Employee's Workers' Compensation Remedy Against His Employer, 55 Tenn. L. Rev. 405 1988.

     If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, and Deer Lodge.

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