On Tuesday, June 11, students at Tampa’s Middleton High School were engaged in after-school football drills when 14-year-old Hezekiah Walters suddenly collapsed. Coaches quickly called 911, and he was taken to a local hospital, where he was sadly pronounced dead.
Walters collapsed about 30 minutes into an outdoor practice that included weightlifting and wind sprints. Medical examiners are still determining his cause of death, but heat stroke and exertion-related heart attacks caused 9 out of 13 football-related deaths in 2017.
“We are devastated by the death of one of our students,” said Tanya Arja, a spokesperson for the county’s public schools. “This student was an amazing young man who was loved by his friends, teachers and staff at school.”
It’s not clear from initial media reports whether an AED (automated external defibrillator) was deployed, or attempted to be deployed. AEDs are used to shock the heart when it is in defibrillation, or in other words, when it is in cardiac arrest and not beating properly. In Florida, all public schools are required to have an AED, and it’s a good safety precaution to have a mobile AED nearby any time students are exercising.
If the school did not have an AED, or if an AED was not retrieved or attempted to be used, or if the AED had malfunctioned, there may be a liability case against the school for wrongful death.
Florida Schools Need to “Get the Message”: Have an AED on Hand At All Times!
We have litigated dozens of cases against schools, hospitals, sporting facilities, and other public places for negligence in not having or not using an AED when a victim on premises suddenly succumbs to sudden cardiac arrest. The laws in Florida are nuanced, and this type of litigation is very difficult. That is why it is important to hire an experienced attorney in this area of law.
Experts say having an AED (defibrillator) on hand at athletic facilities can help save a life if an athlete experiences a sudden cardiac arrest, as paramedics may not arrive in time.