Reversing Course: Georgia Supreme Court Simplifies Analysis for Official Immunity for State-Employed Physicians


By: Michael Eshman
The Georgia Supreme Court recently revisited and reversed its 1997 decision of Keenan v. Plouffe that applied a multi-factor analysis in determining whether a state-employed physician was entitled to official immunity from suit. Courts state-wide struggled with the scope and application of the Keenan decision, and the fact-specific analysis limited predictability of outcomes.  In Shekhawat v. Jones, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed its decision in Keenan, finding that the decision confused sovereign immunity and official immunity and created bad precedent.  According to the Court, the sole issue in determining whether a state-employed physician, or any state employee, is entitled to official immunity under the Georgia Tort Claims Act is whether the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment with the State in committing the allegedly tortious act.  Moving forward, a state-employed physician acting within the scope of his or her employment in providing treatment that is the subject of a malpractice action will be entitled to official immunity, and such a physician cannot face personal liability.