The Second District Court of Appeals in Florida recently ruled that a school district was not responsible for the failure to revive a high school athlete with an automated external defibrillator. In Limones v. School District of Lee County, a high school student suddenly collapsed during a soccer game and suffered a permanent brain injury from lack of oxygen. Although a coach and a nurse bystander performed CPR, it eventually took 23 minutes for the student to be revived with the assistance of EMTs. There was an AED nearby, but it was not brought to the scene during all the confusion of the resuscitation effort.
The parents alleged two causes of action. First, the school failed to meet its general duty of providing a safe environment and reasonable supervision of the students. The trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment for the school district on this theory, which was affirmed by the appeals court. In the opinion, the court reasoned that there is no common law duty to provide CPR or use an external defibrillator on a student. Put another way, even though the school stands partially in the place of the parent, this role does not create a duty for the school to provide medical care and rescue in an emergency, diagnose the need for an external defibrillator, or even make sure that an external defibrillator is available.
The parents also argued that the school district was liable under Florida Statute §1006.165, which requires every public school that is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association to have an automated external defibrillator on campus. The statute further required training for all employees and volunteers who are reasonably expected to use the device. However, the court ruled that the statute does not create a cause of action against a school district once it places the external defibrillator on campus. In fact, the court ruled just the opposite. It pointed to §768.1325(3) titled the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act. The court held that this statute provides immunity from civil liability by complying with the terms of the act in having the AED available and providing the required training.
This is the type of case which unfortunately has the opportunity to result in further litigation from future tragedies. As apersonal injury defense attorney representing governmental institutions, please let me know I can provide any assistance in addressing this or any other situation. Please do not hesitate to give me a call at (352)372.4381