Limones v. Lee County School District – Automatic Defibrillator Responsibility in Schools

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration reports an estimated 460,000 people in the U.S. die of sudden cardiac arrest every year. Of those, nearly 10,000 are children and many have no prior sign of heart disease.
That is more than the number of people who die from guns, breast cancer, cervical cancer, motor vehicle accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide, prostate cancer, house fires and HIV – combined. However, having an Automated External Defibrillator nearby when someone suffers from sudden cardiac arrest can increase the survival rate by almost 70 percent. It’s required equipment for firefighters and paramedics.

Nineteen states – including South Carolina – require it in schools. (North Carolina is not among those.) Some even require them in all government buildings, health clubs and other facilities, and “Good Samaritan” laws have been passed in order to protect people who try to use them on someone who may be dying in order to encourage swift action.The chance of survival declines 10 percent for every minutes defibrillation is delayed. Meanwhile, the average response times for first-responders is 8 to 12 minutes nationally.

As technology improves and prices drop, the devices have become more accessible to many businesses and local governments. But to what extent are people required to use it?

That brings us to the case of Limones v. School District of Lee County, which unfolded in Florida. In that state, defibrillators are required at all schools that participate in the state athletic association. Additionally, it requires anyone who might use it be trained how to use it.

In this case, a 15-year-old soccer player engaged in a competition at a neighboring school (still within the same county district as his own) collided with another player and collapsed. As it would later be revealed, the student had an underlying heart condition and was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest.

His coach rushed to the field, didn’t detect a pulse and called for an AED. There was one on site and the coach was trained to use it, but for reasons that aren’t clear, it was never brought to the coach. Two mothers in the stands, nurses, began CPR on the boy. Emergency responders with the fire department were the first to arrive and they deployed their semi-automatic AED to revive the boy, but were unsuccessful. When emergency medical technicians arrived with their automatic AED, it had been 26 minutes since his collapse. They did revive him, but the delay was not without consequence, and the teen now suffers from a permanent brain injury that has left him in a vegetative state.

The teen’s parents assert the school district breached the common law and statutory duty when no school employee retrieved that AED. The school moved for a summary judgment, which was granted.

However, that ruling was later reversed by the Florida Supreme Court. The court ruled the minimal threshold to open the courthouse doors had been met, which was that the defendant school owed a duty of care to the student. The question of whether that duty had been breached was a question of fact for the jury, and thus, the case was remanded to trial.

Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Limones v. School District of Lee County, April 2, 2015, Florida Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Jimenez v. Applebee’s – Open and Obvious Doctrine Defeats Restaurant Injury Lawsuit, March 18, 2015, Asheville Student Injury Lawyer Blog

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