“The California Supreme Court held [in June] that a business has no common law duty to provide automatic defibrillators in anticipation that a customer will experience heart failure while on the premises.” [TortsProf; earlier, and generally]
Kyle Graham notes that the Ninth Circuit has certified that question to the California Supreme Court, in Verdugo v. Target Corp. [Non Curat Lex; opinion, PDF](& White Coat)
A bill in the California legislature held out hope for encouraging wider adoption of the lifesaving devices, but couldn’t make it past the Litigation Lobby. [John Frith, California Civil Justice Blog]
Marc Hodak wonders about the FDA and its sense of urgency.
Today’s WSJ covers the story, which has been around for a while, and Dr. Wes has one reaction. We’ve had numerous posts touching on the liability implications of keeping defibrillators on hand at public places, not keeping them on hand, or both.
…so a Florida jury ordered it to pay $619,650 to the family of a Fort Lauderdale customer who had a heart attack. A spokesman for L.A. Fitness says it wasn’t common, let alone legally mandatory, for health clubs to stock defibrillators in 2003, when the incident occurred. (Jon Burstein, “Gym told to pay $619,650 in man’s death because it didn’t have a defibrillator”, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Mar. 30)(hat tip: Florida Masochist).
Attorneys recommended against installing defibrillators in casinos for fear that the plaintiffs’ bar would use the safety measure as evidence that casinos had a duty to provide medical attention to patrons and create additional liability on the occasions the defibrillators fail, but executives overruled the lawyers. As a result,
Medical research shows that casino visitors whose hearts suddenly stop survive at higher rates even than people who happen to go into cardiac arrest while visiting a hospital. “The safest place in America to suffer sudden cardiac arrest is a casino,” says Bryan Bledsoe, a George Washington University emergency-medicine doctor and co-author of textbooks for paramedics.
Dozens of lives have been saved, and Nevada and several other states have since passed tort reform providing immunity to businesses that use defibrillators. Never fear, there’s always someone happy to ascribe a sinister motive to corporate behavior: “‘Casinos are just saving gamblers so that these people can return to casinos and lose more money,’ says David Robertson, a board member of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.” (Kevin Helliker, “Beating the Odds”, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28).