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New York health club wins wrongful death case

On behalf of Kammholz Law PLLC posted in Wrongful Death on Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

A man whose father died after suffering a fatal attack of arrhythmia at a New York health club will not receive damages after an appeals court decided in favor of the club, ruling that such institutions are not obliged to defibrillate patients when they appear to be suffering heart attacks. The man who filed a wrongful death lawsuit initially sued the club for violating health club laws to hire employees who are trained in the use of defibrillators, but the first court noted that the law "is silent as to the clubs' duty, if any, to use the device." The appeals court held up that decision. The incident on which the wrongful death lawsuit centered occurred when the plaintiff's father collapsed after playing an early morning game of racquetball at the health club in 2007. A staff member trained in both CPR and the use of a defibrillator responded, but decided not to administer aid. According to the employee, he was trained not to defibrillate "a breathing individual with a detectable pulse." Instead, he issued an announcement for medical assistance. A medical student and doctor who were exercising at the club responded and performed CPR on the victim until emergency response personnel arrived and attempted to resuscitate him with a defibrillator en route to a hospital. This endeavor ultimately failed and the victim was pronounced dead on arrival. In 2008, the victim's son sued the health club and its owner for violating a 2005 New York law governing the use of defibrillators and CPR at health clubs. He rejected the club's defense that it was immune from legal action under the state's Good Samaritan Law, arguing that no employees offered any type of medical treatment. Regardless of whether the Good Samaritan Law applied in this instance, the appeals court found the club not liable for the death. This effectively set a statewide precedent stipulating that health clubs are not required by law to use their defibrillators. Source: Courthouse News Service, "Gyms Get Pass on Failure to Defibrillate Members," Marlene Kennedy, Feb. 12, 2013

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