Letter to the Editor – MLB Arbitration Article

Feb 23, 2024

“I read Christopher R. Deubert’s article, “Malpractice Case Reveals Limits of MLB Arbitration Clause” in SLA published on January 26, 2024, with great interest.  I think the ultimate decision on the motion to compel arbitration comes down to whether the doctor was a club employee. That would be true under the new agreement related to the minor leagues.

In the past, club doctors were not club “employees.” They were independent contractors. Clubs do not buy medical malpractice insurance, nor can they control what the doctor does in surgery. No club employee stands in the surgery room directing the surgeon. That lack of control likely means that things have not changed.

Of course, if the doctor prevails in compelling arbitration, then the doctor would do so as an employee and that would subject the club to workers compensation benefits for what the doctor did or did not do. The club would still be responsible for the underlying injury but not for the alleged botched surgery. In some states, like California, that means lifetime medical benefits and possibly lifetime compensation. That would be less than what athletes can get in a medical malpractice case, but I doubt if any club’s Workers Compensation carrier wants that liability.

Limited discovery on this issue would clear up this issue and it could be done without a waiver of either party’s right to compel or resist arbitration. If the doctor is indeed an employee, a simple W-2 from the year in question should suffice.

Jeff Birren

Senior Writer

Former General Counsel – Oakland Raiders

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