A quick thinking and fully trained school staff that learns how to use a Philips HeartStart AED may not only save a life in the event of sudden cardiac arrest on school grounds – it may limit the school’s legal liability in the process.
A soccer player sprints downfield after the ball and suddenly collapses. Panic from his teammates and fans in the stands sets in. Confusion and worry take over instead of action. CPR is performed by the team’s coach and a nurse while someone calls 9-1-1. The paramedics arrive but they’re ultimately too late – the player doesn’t die but the brain damage he occurs as a result of being in cardiac arrest for so long without resuscitation leaves him in a vegetative state.
Here’s the worst part – the outcome might’ve been prevented. Why? An automated external defibrillator (AED) was literally on the soccer field.
The coach called for an AED, but not one school official responded to his call to get the device from a nearby golf cart. All of the above occurred several years ago in southwest Florida but what’s interesting to me is the new turn we’re seeing in the way of legal liability for schools to provide medical care.
When the student’s family originally sued the school district and school board for damages, the judge ruled that the high school wasn’t legally obligated to use an AED. Yet, when the case went to the Florida Supreme Court, the judges ruled that the school should have, in fact, provided medical aid to the student after he collapsed. The case was sent back for a trial by jury.
Regardless of what a jury in this case or others like it ultimately decide, we’re seeing more states propose bills that incorporate life-saving training into the high school curriculum. In a state such as Wisconsin, this bill could add thousands of lay people who are well trained in how to administer CPR followed by the use of an AED, like the Philips HeartStart. Think about how many more positive outcomes we could have with that level of training.
Still, if state law requires your school to purchase AEDs as well as provide training for that device and administering CPR, it’s not enough to simply have a Philips HeartStart AED and trained staff. The new wrinkle is that you may be leaving a door for legal liability open if you fail to use those methods when a student’s life is at stake.
Don’t Good Samaritan laws prevent people from being sued like this?
Yes, there are Good Samaritan laws in every state that legally protect people who provide CPR in good faith. However, a school-student relationship is special and different because a minor is involved. Therefore, the school is responsible for supervising its students in school-related activities. In the case of the high school soccer player, the Florida Supreme Court found that reasonable care to avoid further injury was not taken because the school had an AED nearby that could have possibly prevented the student’s brain damage from occurring. Just purchasing the AED and making it available didn’t make the school immune.
Now, if the school had at least attempted to use the AED, it might’ve saved itself from legal trouble.
The bottom line:
Correct training on life-saving actions means everything.
It actually goes beyond saving a life in the moment of sudden cardiac arrest. In a school environment, a fully trained staff that follows through on proper use of a Philips HeartStart AED and CPR administration means possibly limiting your legal exposure after the event. SOS Technologies can go a long way on this front when you bring in our safety consultants to train your officials on-site at the school. Because failing to take all the right steps to save a minor’s life could bring about a host of outcomes nobody wants. Call SOS today at 888.705.6100 or email@example.com