A Jacksonville, Florida high school sophomore has died from what doctors are calling sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) while he was working out in the weight room of Fleming Island High School. Ben Johnson was a beloved football and basketball player, and a highly respected student, according to the outpouring of love on the school’s social media pages.
Officials say he “suddenly collapsed” and went unconscious. It is not clear from reports whether he was alone or in the company of others at that time, and it’s also not clear if an automated external defibrillator (AED) was present, or whether an attempt was made to administer a life-saving shock from the device.
Could the death of Ben Johnson have been prevented?
Ben Johnson’s death highlights the importance for public schools to be well aware and trained on the issue of sudden cardiac arrest among student athletes.
In Florida, an AED is required to be present in school facilities, however, there is no explicit duty to use an AED to save a student’s life. But that’s beginning to change with current case law. A court recently ruled in the Limones case, in which a young student athlete in Miami died from SCA because no one bothered to use an AED that was present, that a duty to use the AED does exists when there is a special relationship in place, such as the relationship between a school district employee and a student.
Because Fleming Island High School is a public high school, and AED must have been present on campus somewhere. Was it present in the weight room? And if not, should there have been one present?
Another potential act of negligence among the school’s staff could be the inability or unwillingness of pre-participating testing for student athletes. An EKG test, for example, if performed on Mr. Johnson and other student athletes, possibly could have detected an abnormality in his heart rhythms.
Wrongful death claims in Florida and AED use
Wrongful death claims relating to the loss of a student athlete’s life while on campus grounds is a new and growing area of personal injury law in Florida, and across the country. Instances of SCA-related deaths among student athletes is become more prevalent, and pressure is increasing to hold staff and the school district responsible when a young man or woman dies from SCA on campus.
Wrongful death laws in Florida allow surviving family members to make a claim for the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another (in this case, the potential negligence of the Clay County School District.) But these are complicated areas of law, so hiring an experienced lawyer with a reputation and history of winning these cases is extremely important.
Our law firm represents families who have lost loved one’s due to SCA on public grounds, such as a high school. Give our firm a call for a free consultation with an experienced and caring attorney.