Surgeon: no club contract

West Bromwich Albion Football Club v El-Safty (Court of Appeal - 11 October 2006)

An injured footballer was referred by his club's physiotherapist to the defendant, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. He was advised to undergo reconstructive surgery, which resulted in his retirement from professional football.

The club sought damages for the financial losses it had suffered, allegedly due to the surgeon's negligent advice. The claim was dismissed and the club appealed against the determination the defendant owed no duty to the club in contract or tort in respect of the treatment (both for the advice and surgery).

The Court of Appeal held that the contract for medical treatment was between the player and the defendant. The sending of invoices to the club and payment through the relevant medical insurance policy was not evidence of a contract with the club. Furthermore, the defendant owed no duty of care in tort to the club in respect of foreseeable economic loss. The surgeon was paid under the insurance policy to treat the player, not the club.

The court said the defendant's concern ought to be the well-being of his patient, not the club's finances. The appeal was dismissed.


This decision preserves the doctor-patient relationship and ensures it is not adversely affected by the financial concerns of a third party. - Claire Field, BLM London.

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