“Eyes and ears are poor witnesses when the soul is barbarous.” This is the quote that stares down at those presenting oral argument before the Nebraska Supreme Court. In a dimly lit room, with wood paneled ceiling, concrete walls, seemingly ancient tapestries, and seven learned judges just waiting for their opportunity to test the merits of a position, this quote completes the ambience of this hall of higher jurisprudence.
In this room, the Nebraska Supreme Court recently heard oral argument on the issue of whether Physical Therapists should be considered professionals for purposes of the statute of limitations. It also considered whether a slip and fall occurring at a therapist’s clinic implicates professional negligence.
The Court disposed of the first question fairly quickly, noting that Physical Therapists are licensed. While licensing of a profession is not dispositive of the issue, it is strongly indicative of a profession being just that. The Court went so far as to interrupt counsel during discussion of whether Physical Therapists are professionals, informing him that his better argument is that the case is a run-of-the-mill negligence action. He quickly moved on.
In addressing the latter issue, the Court was concerned with where to draw the line between professional negligence and a premises liability/common-law negligence action. It asked numerous question regarding when the patient-therapist relationship ended. At the door? The bathroom? The hallway? Specifically, the Court asked if a friend picking a patient up from an appointment would have a professional negligence claim if that person slipped and fell. The important point to remember is that the court must look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the alleged negligence.
Only time will tell if the soul was barbarous: unfortunately, the Court does not issue its decision at the conclusion of the oral argument. Stay tuned for the decision!