Florida Appellate Court Holds School District Has No Affirmative Duty to Use AEDs at Athletic Events

02.28.13

On February 6, 2013, the Second District Court of Appeal issued an Order regarding automated external defibrillators (“AEDs”) on school property in the case captioned Abel Limones, Sr., et. al. v. School District of Lee County and School Board of Lee County, Case No. 2D11-5191. This case arises out of a high school soccer game in Ft. Myers, Florida. During the game, one of the students collapsed on the field. An assistant principal called 9-1-1 while one of the coaches and a nurse bystander performed CPR. The coach testified that he called for an AED but no one responded. Later testimony revealed that there was, in fact, an AED in a golf cart near the soccer field at the time of the incident. Emergency medical service personnel arrived on the scene and used a defibrillator to deliver a shocks to the student’s heart and administered a series of intravenous medications. The student was resuscitated 23 minutes after the 9-1-1 call but sustained a catastrophic brain injury which left him in a near persistent vegetative state. The student’s parents sued the School District of Lee County and the School Board of Lee County (collectively referred to as “School District”) alleging two separate negligence theories. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the School District and the parents appealed.

The parents first asserted a negligence claim against the School District based on its common law duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for the student. Florida courts generally recognize a school’s duty to adequately supervise its students. This duty includes the use of appropriate post-injury efforts to protect a student’s injury against aggravation at an athletic event. The question before the Second District Court of Appeal was whether a reasonably prudent post-injury effort included making available or using an AED on a student. The Court examined prevailing Florida law that uniformly refuses to extend a business owner’s duty from calling for medical assistance within a reasonable amount of time, to providing medical care or rescue services such as an AED, oxygen, or intubation. The Second District Court of Appeal found that the School District was similar to a business and had no common law duty to make available or use an AED on the student. It is important to note that the Second District Court of Appeal cautioned against applying the outcome in this case as bright line rule because the law surrounding the duty to provide prompt medical care is still evolving.  

The parents also asserted a negligence claim based on the School District’s alleged failure to adhere to the terms of §1006.165, Florida Statutes (2008), which governs AED requirements at certain public schools.[1] The Second District Court of Appeal found that the School District did not voluntarily undertake the duty to use an AED simply by acquiring one and providing training on its use. Furthermore, the Second District Court of Appeal found that §1006.165 does not require the School District to do anything other than have an operational AED on school grounds, register its location, and provide appropriate training. Neither the Good Samaritan Act nor the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act sets forth an affirmative duty to use an AED. Even if there had been such a duty, the School District would have been entitled to immunity from civil liability under the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act because under the terms of that Act, it acquired an AED and made it available for use by having it at the soccer field. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the summary judgment issued by the trial court and issued a judgment in favor of the School District.



[1] Florida Statute, §1006.165 (2008), governs AED requirements at public schools that are part of the Florida High School Athletic Association. The statute requires those schools to have an operational AED on school grounds, to register its location, and to provide appropriate training. The Second District Court of Appeal declined to determine whether the statute creases a private cause of action for negligence. 

 
© Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell Attorneys At Law Web site hosted on the FirmWise platform