About 92 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital, but cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has been shown to more than double a victim’s chance of survival if given properly and immediately. The mouth-to-mouth resuscitation aspect of CPR goes back as far as 1740, when it was first officially recommended by the Paris Academy of Sciences to help drowning victims. The chest compression part did not come for more than a century later. Despite all this time, many Americans still don’t know how to perform this life-saving technique.
What is an AED?
Enter the advent of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), portable devices that check the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm in someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. This condition, in which the heart unexpectedly stops beating, halting blood flow to the brain and other vital organs, strikes about 380,000 Americans each year. According to the American Heart Association, a victim’s chance of survival drops by 7 percent to 10 percent for each minute that passes without defibrillation. While people can be trained in how to use AEDs, the units are designed to be almost self-explanatory so that any bystander is capable of helping someone in cardiac arrest. Once costing around $4,000, they now sell for as little as $1,000.
Are there laws about AEDs?
All 50 states have enacted laws or regulations requiring that certain public gathering places have AEDs available. However, the laws vary greatly. There are no uniform rules about where they must be located, if they should be registered so authorities know where they are, whether a business that installs one is fully protected from liability, or even if a business has a duty to use one if someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest.
Here in Florida, multiservice senior centers and state parks are “encouraged” to have AEDs, while local governments are authorized to use forfeiture funds to buy AEDs for state and local law enforcement vehicles. Florida requires functioning AEDs in all assisted living facilities with 17 or more beds, all public schools with high school athletics and all state buildings. Formal training of some or all “expected users” is also mandatory. Of course, AEDs can’t save lives if they aren’t in working order or are malfunctioning. Like other medical devices, AEDs are susceptible to defects and recalls. They also must be maintained. AEDs have batteries that must be replaced every five years and electrode pads that have to be replaced every two years.
Initially, every state passed laws that included language giving “Good Samaritan'' protection to anyone who uses an AED to try to save a life. Since then, many have added provisions that limit immunity if requirements for things like training, maintenance or registration of AEDs are not followed. As a result, it can be difficult to know whether companies, employees and bystanders have liability protection if they buy or use an AED. Amusement parks, airlines, gyms and transportation groups are among the entities that have paid significant damages because AEDs were not available to revive sudden cardiac arrest victims. There are currently several cases pending in courts across the country awaiting determinations of the standard of care owed by businesses if a visitor goes into cardiac arrest. These rulings will help decide whether the common law duty for commercial property owners to provide emergency first aid requires having an AED available.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one has suffered sudden cardiac arrest in a public place that did not have an AED, you may be entitled to collect damages. You may also have legal rights if you or someone you love was injured or killed by an AED improperly used by a person who was insufficiently trained. If the AED malfunctioned because of a defect in its design or manufacture, a product liability action may provide money needed to support your family.
Entrust your case to the Miami product liability attorneys at Stabinski Law For 45 years, we have advocated for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout South Florida. Contact us by calling (305) 643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.
DISCLAIMER: Any information about past verdicts and settlements is based on the unique facts of each case. Every case is different, and future cases may not achieve the same or similar results. These amounts reflect the gross recovery (before attorneys’ fees and expenses are deducted).