Earlier, we discussed whether Physical Therapists are professionals and whether a slip and fall can implicate professional negligence. Last week, the Nebraska Supreme Court, in Churchill v. Columbus Community Hospital, agreed with my unofficial poll where a full 100% of the therapists polled considered physical therapists to be professionals (full disclosure: my polling sample size was one) and found that a slip
and fall at a therapist’s clinic implicated professional negligence.
The Churchill court found it significant that Physical Therapists are licensed, that preparation and training is required to procure the license, and that Physical Therapists are subject to continuing education requirements, and a professional disciplinary authority. After citing the applicable regulations and statutes which require the above, the Court concluded that Physical Therapists are in fact professionals.
Based on this finding, the Court then examined whether a patient’s slip and fall while exiting an aquatic therapy pool implicates professional negligence. If it does, then the shorter statute of limitations would apply. In reviewing the evidence, the court found that the patient was allowed to descend the stairs to the therapy pool, unassisted, only after her therapist had evaluated her gait and ability to ambulate. This evaluation led the therapist to conclude that she did not need any assistance. The patient fell and was allegedly injured. The court found that, at the time of her fall, the patient was receiving professional services and her action was based on alleged professional negligence.
What does this mean? Physical Therapists are now the beneficiary of a shorter, two year statute of limitations. Expert testimony will be required in most cases to establish a therapist’s negligence. And the Supreme Court has officially recognized an entire profession as professionals!