April 21, 2014

AED lawsuit threatens youth sports with liability overload

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

Later this year, the Florida Supreme Court will consider a lawsuit that seeksaed_sign-web to expand liability against public schools – and others – for failure to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) in treating an emergency. PLF will file an amicus brief in the case, and last week the Tampa Tribune published our op-ed on the case. The piece begins:

Few can know the pain felt by a parent whose child becomes permanently brain damaged – or even dies – as a result of suffering a cardiac arrhythmia while playing high school sports. Although these circumstances do not occur often, state law now requires public schools in Florida, and other public locations, to have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on hand for emergencies. But does that mean the courts should hold public schools liable when they do not use the AED? State law doesn’t establish such liability, but the courts are being asked to legislate from the bench to create a new duty to use AEDs. A lawsuit that seeks this result has been accepted by the Florida Supreme Court, and will be heard later this year.

You can read the rest here.  In short, we think the courts should refrain from creating this entirely new theory of liability for a number of reasons.  The Florida Supreme Court should not allow sympathy over a tragic event to distort the manner in which it interprets the law. It should not arbitrarily create a new duty to use an AED where none existed before. Such a decision might be well-intentioned, but it could have the unintended consequence of diminishing sports opportunities for young people in many ways and in many venues. Not just public schools, but all owners and operators of youth sports fields and facilities, would confront new expenses and uncertainties; and community youth leagues would see their volunteer base shrink – increasing the risks and costs for those who remain behind.

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