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Court: Landlord Not Liable for Tenant Gym’s Lack of Defibrillator (AED)

In Florida, there are laws in place requiring certain entities to be equipped with automated external defibrillators (AED). Commonly called “shock devices,” they are instruments used to electronically “restart” a person’s heart once they have gone into cardiac arrest. Here in Florida, F.S. 1006.165 requires every public school district that is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association to have an operational AED on school grounds, and schools must make sure all employees and volunteers who might reasonably be expected to use the device are appropriately trained to do so. F.S. 258.0165 encourages (but does not require) state parks to have a functioning one on site at all times. Other provisions of Florida’s Administrative Code require them in dentists’ offices, state-owned or leased facilities.¬†wrongful death lawyer

Failure to abide these provisions could be grounds upon which to pursue a negligence claim if a facility or premises required to have an AED does not, resulting in a wrongful death that might otherwise have been prevented.

In a recent case out of California (where there are similar provisions), an appellate court ruled a landlord who leases¬† commercial space to the operator of a health facility (which are required by state law to carry AEDs) doesn’t owe a duty of care to ensure those devices are provided.

According to records from the California Court of Appeals Second Appellate District Division Four, state law defines “health studio” as one that allows use of its facilities and equipment to other people for physical exercise and similar activities. These sites are required to obtain and keep an AED on site.

So the question here was whether a commercial landlord who leases space to the operator of one of these health studios might also be held liable for a failure to keep an AED on site. The appellate court’s response: No.

This will limit options for damages recovery for those who suffer as a result of a facility’s failure to keep these devices on site as required. However, there are some stipulations: Mainly that this particular landlord lacked control over the site’s operations. One that has more power over the day-to-day happenings could potentially find a similar claim having a different outcome.

Here, the commercial landlord leased two Los Angeles units to a boxing club/ gym. Before signing the lease, landlord did a walk-through of the site to ensure no structural damages or plumbing issues, but other than that had no involvement with the tenant’s activities.

Five years into that lease, a club member was working out with a trainer at the center when he suffered a deadly heart attack. There was no AED on site. His surviving spouse and minor daughter filed a wrongful death lawsuit for negligence per se and negligence, based on the failure to have that AED, which they asserted could have saved his life. Landlord was named as a defendant.

Landlord sought summary judgment on the grounds he owed no duty of care – either under common or statutory law – to furnish an AED. The trial court agreed, finding it would also be unreasonable to impose a duty on a property owner or landlord to ensure this law is being followed.

The appellate court affirmed.

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Additional Resources:

Day v. Lupo Vine Street, LP, April 11, 2018, California Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Court: Colleges Owe Duty of Care to Protect Students, April 11, 2018, Orlando Wrongful Death Attorney Blog

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