Florida Court Overturns Verdict Because Railroad Had No Duty To Provide AEDs Or Train In CPR

Last week, a Florida appellate court set aside a jury’s verdict finding in favor of the estate of a railroad worker who died after suffering cardiac arrest.  The court determined that the estate failed to establish that the railroad had a duty to take preventative measures to guard against an employee suffering from cardiac arrest and failed to establish that the railroad’s failure to procure prompt medical assistance contributed in any way to the employee’s death.  Moreover, the court concluded that although the railroad had a duty, through its employees, to render basic first aid to seriously ill or injured employees, that duty did not require the railroad to compel its employees to administer medical care in the form of life-saving techniques such as CPR that required training and/or certification.

In the incident, a railroad conductor and engineer were conducting switch operations when the conductor exited the train and suffered cardiac arrest.  About two minutes later, the engineer discovered him and contacted the railroad’s dispatcher via the train’s radio system.  Because of the inability to locate the exact location of the train, the EMTs arrived thirteen to fifteen minutes later than they otherwise would have.  The jury found in favor of the worker’s estate but the appellate court set that verdict aside.

The court stressed that an employer is not required under FELA to take preventive actions in anticipation of an employee falling ill or becoming injured.  For example, the court noted that the railroad, even though it had a duty to secure prompt emergency medical treatment for the worker once it knew that the worker was seriously ill, the railroad did not have a duty to take anticipatory measures to prevent such emergency situations.  In considering whether the railroad had a duty to provide automated external defibrillators (“AEDs”), the court analogized the situation more to the duty owed by a property owner to an invitee as opposed to the duty owed by a school to its student:  “It is axiomatic that if [the railroad] did not have a duty to take preventative measures, then [the railroad] did not have a duty to provide AEDs nor to train its employees in the administration of AEDs or CPR.”

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