The family of a Florida high school student who suffered permanent brain damage as a result of oxygen loss after collapsing on a school soccer field has won the right to continue their civil lawsuit against the school district.
Continuation of the case, Limones v. Lee County School District, which had previously been dismissed via trial court’s summary judgment favoring defendant last year, hinged on whether the school employees owed a reasonable duty of care under F.S. 1006.165 to diagnose the need for, locate and use an automated external defibrillator.
What the law says is the every public school that is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association has to keep a defibrillator on school grounds and all employees and volunteers who may reasonably be expected to use the device need to know how to use it.
In this case, there was a defibrillator on school grounds. The child’s coach was trained to use it and even requested it be brought to him. But that did not happen, for reasons that aren’t clear. Parents who were nurses in the stands came on to the field to assist with CPR. When firefighters arrived, they brought a semi-automatic defibrillator. But that didn’t revive the boy. It wasn’t until emergency medical services arrived that they brought an automatic defibrillator and revived him. But by that point, he’d been so long without oxygen that the damage to his brain was serious and irreversible.
The teen’s family say the school should have been responsible for failing to quickly administer the AED, which delivers an electrical shock to the heart to restart it. Plaintiff’s expert witness testified the 15-year-old had an underlying heart condition that was previously diagnosed. He collapsed after colliding with a player from the other team. (Both teams belonged to the same school district.) When the teen didn’t get up, the coach immediately ran to the field to assist. But the parents say school officials failed the boy when no AED was administered. The device was located in a storage shed, on the other side of the soccer field.
Trial court entered summary judgment. On appeal to Fla. 2nd District Court of Appeal, the court ruled that while the school owed a duty of care to supervise its students – which in the context of team sports included the duty to prevent aggravation of an injury – it declined to impose the duty to use an AED.
In its decision, the appellate court cited the 2008 Fla. 4th DCA decision in L.A. Fitness International, LLC v. Mayer, in which the court ruled gym workers did not owe a duty to administer an AED to a business invitee in cardiac distress. The 2nd DCA indicated no distinction between that case and the present one.
However, the Florida Supreme Court reversed, noting these two cases are very different and different care standards are owed a business patron versus a student.
Beyond that, the appealed ruling conflicts with the 1992 Florida Supreme Court decision in McCain v. Florida Power Corp. regarding duty of care.
Schools do owe a duty to use reasonable care under the circumstances in order to mitigate student injury. Whether that occurred in this case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, is a question for the jury to decide.
The case was remanded back to the lower court for trial.
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Limones v. Lee County School District, April 2, 2015, Florida Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Halvorson v. Sweetwater County – School Injury Case Weighed, Feb. 16, 2015, Broward County Child Injury Lawyer Blog