The New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, ruled that health clubs are not required to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on a club member even though state law requires clubs to have an AED and staff trained to use them.
The ruling came down Thursday stemming from a negligence lawsuit—Gregory C. Miglino Jr. v. Bally Total Fitness of Greater New York Inc.—involving the death of Gregory Miglino Sr., who collapsed in cardiac arrest while playing racquetball at a Bally Total Fitness in Lake Grove, NY, on Long Island.
On that day in March 2007, one of Bally's personal trainers, Kenneth LaGrega, found Miglino with his eyes open, a weak pulse and breathing heavily, according to court affidavits. A member notified the front desk to call 911. Another employee brought the club's AED to the scene where a medical doctor and a medical student, who were members of the club, then began attending to Miglino and began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. The AED was not used on Miglino, although no specific reason was given for its non-use. Paramedics arrived and shocked Miglino, but he died.
The Court of Appeals ruled the lawsuit can proceed but the gym's duty is limited, the Associated Press reported. In the majority opinion, Judge Susan Read wrote that the AED law "does not create a duty running from a health club to its members to use an AED."
"A law that mandates the presence of AEDs and trained individuals at health clubs is easy to obey and enforce," Read wrote. Any "implied duty" would be neither, according to Read.
"Such a duty would engender a whole new field of tort litigation, saddling health clubs with new costs and generating uncertainty," Read wrote.
The ruling overturned a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division Second Judicial Department on Dec. 27, 2011.