Are Schools Liable for Student Athlete Injuries?

Aug. 5th, 2015   /   , , ,

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Our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green routinely represent individuals who have been injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another. Commonly, for instance, we represent individuals who have been injured in auto accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Some of the more complex personal injury cases we come across, though, have to do with people sustaining injuries the direct or initial causes of which were not the fault of others yet who have had their injuries worsened or aggravated due to the negligent lack of action by others.

It is often quite difficult to determine who exactly is at fault in a given complex personal injury case. For instance, who should be held liable when a student athlete collapses and is hurt during a high school sporting event? In this type of case, the student collapsed on their own; they were not hit or tripped or thrown down by anyone else, nor were the necessarily encouraged to perform at an unhealthy level. As our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, this very intricate legal issue was highlighted by Limones v. School District of Lee County, a Florida case stemming from a 2008 incident in which a high school student athlete collapsed and consequently sustained permanent brain damage during a high school soccer game.

When the student, Abel Limones, stopped breathing and ceased to have a pulse, both his coach and a nurse who happened to be present performed CPR, but the student was not resuscitated until emergency workers arrived on the scene and used a defibrillator. The student, because of the delay in resuscitation, suffered “severe and permanent brain damage.” As a result, our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, his parents sued the school district, claiming that the school district was negligent in that it failed to maintain a defibrillator on or near the soccer field, in that it failed to make the defibrillator available for use, and that it failed to actually use the defibrillator on the student.

The trial court ruled against the student’s family, arguing that the school didn’t have a duty to make the defibrillator available, etc., and that even if it did, the school was immune from liability. Then, on appeal, the Second District agreed with the trial court’s ruling, pointing to the case L.A. Fitness v. Mayer, the ruling for which stated that a business owner doesn’t have a common law duty to provide CPR or to maintain or use a defibrillator when someone invited to the business, such as a customer, collapses while exercising at the owner’s facility.

However, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Second District’s finding that the L.A. Fitness ruling was controlling, arguing that the hypothetical adult customer at a gym is in a far different relationship with the gym than is a student and a school district. And so, in their ruling, the highest court in the state overturned the ruling by the Second District Court of Appeals, thereby siding with the family, and sending the case back to trial, saying a jury should decide whether the school breached its duty to supervise the teen athlete and to take “reasonable measures and come to his aid” in order to prevent he injury from being exacerbated.

It’s important for our court system, as it did in this instance, to acknowledge the responsibility school districts have for the safety and well being of its students within the system. If you have any questions about this or any other personal injury issue, please contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or by emailing us at adronberg@aronberglaw.com. We look forward to assisting you.

 

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