Heart attacks are serious medical conditions that require immediate medical treatment. However, understanding whether or not a heart attack in a public place could be considered a wrongful death claim can be complicated. In most situations, a heart attack that occurs in a public area will not rise to the level of a wrongful death claim, barring some extenuating circumstances. However, public entities or private property owners could be held liable for failing to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site.
Heart Attack Survival Rates Outside of a Medical Facility
More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting each year, according to the American Heart Association. In a vast majority of situations, individuals who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting do not survive. However, data shows that CPR administered immediately after cardiac arrest can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
Having an AED available for use in these situations further increases a person’s survival odds, and there are some specific locations where AEDs must be located, per Florida law.
AEDs in Public – The Rules in Florida
In the state of Florida, there must be an AED on public school grounds if that school is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association. Any school employee or volunteer who could reasonably be expected to use the AED as a life-saving measure must be dual CPR/AED certified. Schools that are required to have AEDs must notify the local EMS provider of the location of any AED on school grounds.
Florida State law further requires that every dentist’s office in the state have an AED on the premises. AEDs must also be present on the premises of assisted living facilities that have 17 or more beds.
How Could This Be a Wrongful Death?
In most situations, a heart attack that occurs in a public place will not rise to the level of a wrongful death claim, but there are some exceptions.
In the event the heart attack was triggered by some sort of external event, there may be questions of liability surrounding the death. For example, if a person experiences A cardiac arrest after being held up at gunpoint and loses their life, a wrongful death claim against the alleged suspect may be viable.
However, facilities that are required to have an AED present and fail to do so could also be held liable if a person experiences a cardiac event and loses their life on the premises. For example, if a person has a cardiac arrest at a public high school that is a member of the FHSAA, but there was no AED present or working to be used for life-saving measures, then the school or school district may hold liability.
If you believe that a loved one lost their life because of the lack of an AED in a public place, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Additionally, if your loved one lost their life even after the application and use of an AED, we still encourage you to speak to a wrongful death attorney about your options. Often, individuals who use aids for life-saving purposes are protected through Florida’s Good Samaritan Act, and the law is more likely to apply when AEDs are used outside of a medical setting.