HILLSBOROUGH, NJ -- The family of a New Jersey man who collapsed at a club and later died is suing HRC Management Inc., doing business as Hillsborough (NJ) Pool, Racquet & Fitness, for gross negligence after the club's staff did not administer an automated external defibrillator (AED) to the man. The lawsuit was filed last month in Superior Court in Somerset County, NJ.

Thomas Durkin collapsed at the club on Jan. 8, 2007, after he went into cardiac arrest while playing racquetball, according to a report in the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger. After a 911 call was placed, a staff member rushed over to Durkin with the AED, but the staff started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and waited almost seven minutes for Hillsborough police to arrive and perform defibrillation, the newspaper reported. Durkin was later pronounced dead.

According to the lawsuit, choosing not to use the AED “involved an extreme degree of risk that the patron who suffered sudden cardiac arrest would not be able to be saved and would in fact die, as happened with Mr. Durkin.”

New Jersey’s law requiring health clubs to have AEDs became effective Jan. 12, 2006, but facilities had until Jan. 12, 2007, to comply. (Durkin died four days earlier.) Durkin’s sister, Joan Durkin, says the staff should have known that the state law requires health clubs to have an AED and trained personnel, the newspaper reported.

Dawn Thomas, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, tells the newspaper that a health club could not be cited for noncompliance before the 2007 deadline. Joan Durkin says the club is still responsible for her brother’s death.

“The conduct of the health club staff bringing the defibrillator there is clearly an admission that they understood the need for it,” she says in the report.