School responsible for not having defibrillator at sports event.

Dec 17, 2015

A public school district could be held legally responsible for not having an automated external defibrillator at a high-school soccer game, after a player collapsed and suffered permanent brain damage, the Florida Supreme Court recently decided.

The player, Abel Limones, had stopped breathing and had no pulse. His coach and a nurse who happened to be at the game performed CPR. But Abel couldn’t be resuscitated until emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene and used an AED. His parents sued the school district, claiming that it had a responsibility to keep an AED near the field in case of an emergency.

Initially, a judge threw the case out. The judge said the school had no legal duty to keep an AED handy, and that a state law protected “Good Samaritans” by saying that no one could be sued for misusing an AED in an effort to help.

But on appeal, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Abel’s family.

The court said a school was different from a private business, such as a health club. While a private business might not have a legal obligation to have an AED on-site, a school takes the place of parents during school hours, and thus it is held to a higher standard and is required to be more careful than a business in looking out for its students’ safety. The court also said the state law didn’t apply, because the school wasn’t being sued for misusing an AED; it was being sued for not having one available in the first place.