Maryland Plaintiff Files Wrongful Death Action Against Gym After Husband Suffers Heart Attack

In some negligence actions, a defendant’s duty of care can arise from a law enacted to protect the plaintiff and others similarly situated.  In a July 25, 2017 case, the plaintiff brought a Maryland wrongful death action against a fitness center after her husband died from cardiac arrest while playing basketball there.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had a duty to use the automated external defibrillator (AED) that it had installed at its facility, pursuant to statutory requirements.

The decedent had been playing basketball at the defendant’s facility when he suddenly collapsed.  A fitness instructor employed by the defendant began to administer CPR, while other people called 911.  Although the facility had an AED that was just outside the doors of the basketball court, and despite the fact that the fitness instructor had 20 years of experience in administering life support and resuscitation measures, including the use of an AED, the fitness instructor did not retrieve the AED or ask anyone to retrieve it for her.  When the paramedics arrived, they were notified of the defendant’s AED and used it on the decedent, but they were unsuccessful in resuscitating him.

To prove negligence per se, the plaintiff must show the violation of a law designed to protect a specific class of persons that includes the plaintiff, and the violation must have proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury.  The primary issue before the Court of Special Appeals, therefore, was whether the Maryland statute at issue prescribed a duty of care requiring the defendant to use an AED to provide cardiac defibrillation to someone who has suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

The court first looked at the language of the statute.  The statute at issue was designed to encourage the installation of AEDs in places of business and public accommodation, and ensure that the devices are operable and are used by people who are properly trained to use them.  The statute requires a facility with an available AED to possess a valid certificate from the EMS Board.  To obtain a certificate, the facility must qualify by meeting several requirements, which the defendant in the case had done.

The court observed the lack of any language in the statute regarding a duty on the part of an AED facility, and it noted that statutes that did impose an affirmative obligation employed mandatory language to define what a person had a duty to do or to refrain from doing.  The court next looked at the implementing regulations that the EMS Board had adopted, finding that most of the regulations were concerned only with the procedures for obtaining a certificate.  The court ultimately concluded that neither the statute establishing the program for the installation of AEDs, nor the implementing regulations, imposed an affirmative duty on the defendant to use the AED to provide cardiac defibrillation to the decedent or anyone else suffering from cardiac arrest.  Since the plaintiff could not prove negligence without the element of duty, the case was dismissed.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our personal injury lawyers provide trusted legal advice to plaintiffs pursuing negligence lawsuits in Maryland.  We handle motor vehicle accident cases, premises liability actions, medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death claims, and more.  To learn more from one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact us online or call (301) 441-2022 today and schedule your appointment.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiffs May Bring Wrongful Death Action Despite Successful Personal Injury Claim of Decedent, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 15, 2016

Maryland Court Rules for Plaintiff in Wrongful Death Appeal Regarding Venue, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published April 25, 2017