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Florida Supreme Court Victory for Vegetative Teen Against School

He was fifteen. It was almost 8:00 p.m. on a Thursday night, and the Lee County boy was playing in a soccer game on the visitor’s team against a rival school. Many children are injured playing sports, but this boy’s case was different: he had an undetected heart condition. Without reaching out to any other player, he suddenly collapsed on the field. What happened next–or rather, what didn’t happen next–made all the difference. This story that began on the soccer field eventually ended up in the Florida Supreme Court.

Available Defibrillator Not Used

His coach immediately ran on the field, but within minutes the boy was unable to rise, and appeared to lose consciousness and stop breathing. A pulse could no longer be detected. The home school called for an ambulance, and two bystanders, who happened to be nurses, attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the boy. The coach claims he then called for an automated external defibrillator, or AED, which he was certified to use. Luckily, the school had one, and it was located just at the end of the soccer field. Unfortunately, it was not brought to the boy.

Responders arrived too late. He survived, but persists today with a traumatic brain injury caused, undisputedly, by the time delay. His parents face a lifetime of caretaking for their son, who is now in a persistent vegetative state. They went to an expert doctor to find out more, and the expert determined that the use of the AED could have saved the boy from the permanent vegetative state.

A Lawsuit Denied

The parents, although undoubtedly grief-stricken, sued the home school for the failure to supply the defibrillator, seeking to compensate their son for his losses and his medical expenses. However, the school fought back– and courts agreed. The lower courts admitted that the school owed a duty to prevent aggravation of the boy’s injuries, but denied that neither the undertaker’s doctrine, nor relevant Florida statutes, applied. Instead, the school compared itself to a health club, which is not required to provide the use of an AED, and the lower court granted the school immunity. The case did not even make it before a jury.

However, in a display of justice favorable to plaintiffs everywhere, the Supreme Court of Florida disagreed. Now, according to the highest court in the state, Florida courts now recognize a special relationship between schools and students, because of the parental role schools take on when administering school-sponsored activities such as soccer games. Now, the case will go before a jury, and the boy’s family will have a chance to present the above facts and ask a jury whether the school acted unreasonably.

Serious injuries can be traumatic for families, but with the proper assistance, anyone can find justice. If you know a student who suffered an injury–even a traumatic brain injury, due to a school’s negligence–you should know that Florida courts just got a little friendlier. Contact Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney Scott Newmark today and tell your story.

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