One of New York's appellate courts (Second Department) recently held that health and fitness clubs in New York State must actually use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) when necessary, and not just have them available. If they don't, a heart attack victim can sue them for failing to act. You can read the case here.
Since I am both a Central New York personal injury and wrongful death lawyer, and am on the Board of the Auburn, New York YMCA (former president of the board), I took a keen interest in this ruling. I also immediately informed the Y's CEO about this case. After all, it's one thing to require that health clubs have such devices available, but quite another to require that staff actually make a judgment call about when and whether to actually use them, and to be subject to wrongful death lawsuits if they fail to act properly.
Here are the facts of the case before the court: A racquetball player at a fitness club collapsed, a fellow player reported it promptly to the front desk, and the front desk immediately called 911. While they waited for the ambulance, several employees, with AED in hand, hovered over the stricken player, checking his pulse, but they never actually used the AED. The ambulance arrived in only a few minutes later, which may explain why they never used the AED. But the guy died at the hospital, and his family blamed the fitness club for not using the defibrillator.
While the Court noted that the Statute on the books (Business Law 627-a) requires only that AEDs be "on-site" at New York health clubs, and does not specifically mandate that Club employees use them, the Court read between the lines, holding that it was "illogical to conclude that no such duty exists".
Makes sense. By the way, the use of an AED is simple and clear and requires no significant training.
Health Clubs beware! Let's hope this requirement saves lives (it probably will!).
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