According to the American Red Cross, sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Over 350,000 people will suffer from sudden cardiac arrest this year, and it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and at any age. An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest; the device is simple to use by people with no medical background.
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So wouldn’t you think an AED would be on the campus of every public school? The reality of defibrillator requirements in Florida public school establishments may actually shock you, and here’s why.
The laws on who, how, where, and when AEDs are to be used in Florida are confusing and scattered in across several sections of Florida’s rambling statutes. Like most of the statutes, those involving AEDs are challenging to read and understand, even for an experienced personal injury lawyer. For instance, Florida Statute Section 1006.165 governs the use, cost, placement, and training for AEDs in public schools. Incredibly, the law does not even require all of the state’s public schools to have AEDs–rather, only Florida public schools that are members of the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) are required have to have AEDs on school grounds.
The FHSAA is a Non-Profit 501c (3) Private Corporation, founded in 1920 by a group of high school principals to “promote, direct, supervise, and regulate interscholastic athletic programs” such as football, basketball, lacrosse and bowling. In 1997, the Florida legislature gave the FHSAA statutory recognition as the official governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida. Currently, the FHSAA has a total of over 800 member schools, including 710 high schools and 86 member middle schools.((http://www.fhsaa.org/about.))
Currently two schools are on suspension for failing to comply with the FHSAA’s requirements:
|Crestwell (Ft. Myers)||Bylaw 126.96.36.199|
|Upper Room Christian (Fort Lauderdale)||Bylaw 188.8.131.52|
This oversight covers a mere fraction of Florida’s nearly 2.7 million students, 4,200 public schools, 28 colleges, 192,000 teachers, 47,000 college professors and administrators, and 321,000 full-time staff.
WHO PAYS FOR THE AEDs IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Since Florida law requires only that schools that are members of the FHSAA have AEDs, it depends on both public and private partnerships to cover the costs associated with buying and installing them, as well as the training needed to use them safely.
At present, not all teachers or staff are required to receive training. Instead, the statute obligates only employees or volunteers that are “reasonably expected” to use these devices to be appropriately trained. That training includes a course in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and a “proficiency” in the use of an AED.((http://The Statute also requires each school to register the AED’s location with a local emergency medical services medical director.))
As a Miami personal injury lawyer who represents injured children across the state of Florida, I cannot understand why the legislature would limit the protection and safety provided by AEDs to a small fraction of our students and teachers, whose lives could be saved by these devices.
I believe that if a school can have a nurse on staff, or offers PE or any other kind of strenuous physical activity, it should be required to purchase an AED and provide its teachers and staff routine training in its use. There simply is no reason that these devices should not be purchased and installed immediately.
They cost less than $2,000, and with nearly 4300 public schools, I am sure we can negotiate a discounted price. Shame on Florida’s legislature and Department of Education for not making these life-saving tools available to all students, rather than merely the select few who play sports at member schools of the FHSAA.
GETTING SUED FOR MISUSE OF AN AED
Florida’s legislature seems more interested in protecting the people who use or misuse an AED from being sued than the students and employees in their public schools who are not afforded the protection of having a mandatory AED on each campus.
For example, the law requiring AEDs at public schools is four sentences long. The laws insulating liability for the use of an AED span two separate statutes; Section 768.13’s Good Samaritan Act((Any person, including those licensed to practice medicine, who gratuitously and in good faith renders emergency care or treatment either in direct response to emergency situations related to and arising out of a public health emergency declared pursuant to s. 381.00315, a state of emergency which has been declared pursuant to s. 252.36 or at the scene of an emergency outside of a hospital, doctor’s office, or other place having proper medical equipment, without objection of the injured victim or victims thereof, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of such care or treatment or as a result of any act or failure to act in providing or arranging further medical treatment where the person acts as an ordinary reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.)) and 768.1325’s The Cardiac Arrest Survival Act go on for pages. Essentially, these law detail how and when people or businesses can be sued for not have AEDs or for their misuse.
There are exceptions, but basically no one who uses or attempts to use an AED on a victim that is having a perceived medical emergency, and who does not object, can be sued for any harm that the use may cause. Even Florida business owners are still not required to place AEDs in their locations, or it they do, they are not required to train anyone to use them.
However, those that acquire AEDs and make them available for use can be sued if the device fails because of inappropriate maintenance and staff training, as can anyone who intentionally tries to harm someone or is reckless. In addition, healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses can still be sued for their misuse of an AED if they hurt someone while acting within the course and scope of their employment.
PROTECTING THE LEGAL RIGHTS OF THE INJURED
Our office is passionate about protecting the legal rights of the injured. If you have been involved in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or bicycle accident; have been hurt by a careless doctor or hospital employee; or have slipped, tripped, or fallen at a grocery store, shopping mall, theme park, or onboard a cruise ship, call our office today for a free initial consultation, at 305-441-0440, or toll free at 1-866-597-4529.
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