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Good Samaritan law could extend to heart defibrillators

Good Samaritan law could extend to heart defibrillators

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 11, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
Author Image
March 11, 2010

Businesses, churches, or individuals owning automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) could receive extra protection from lawsuits if their devices designed to jump-start a stopped heart prove faulty. The Idaho Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee approved a proposal backed by the American Heart Association (AHA) that would protect AED owners from some liability. It would raise the standard of negligence from simple negligence to gross negligence. That would make it harder for a business or person to be sued for having a faulty AED if they were unaware that it was malfunctioning.

Adrean Casper with the AHA said pushing back the negligence standard would encourage more businesses to get AEDs. “We’re talking about the little mom and pop [stores] on the very chance that they might get sued, they’re not going to do it,” she said. “We have heard countless stories of this very real fear.” She said that the gross negligence standard of harm is the same for other Good Samaritan laws, including a state law for performing CPR. Casper said that AEDs could be the last resort when someone’s heart stops and he or she is medically dead.

“We’re here to encourage and perhaps put more of those units in use,” said Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, who supported the legislation.

The Idaho Trial Lawyers Association’s Barbara Jorden spoke against the plan, saying that lowering liability isn’t needed. “I think there are some other reasons why defibrillators are not being placed in businesses,” she said. Jorden said the cheapest AEDs cost $1,200, which could be cost-prohibitive for some businesses and churches.

Casper said that Idaho’s Emergency Medical Services bureau and St. Luke’s Hospital have had difficulty giving away AEDs because of legal concerns. “It’s not the cost,” she said. “It’s the fear of litigation.”

Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, was one of several lawmakers who voted against sending the proposal to the Senate for a full vote. He said people could rely on a broken AED instead of attempting CPR or calling 911 when someone falls unconscious. “If it turns out not to work, people will have lost five minutes,” he said. Hayden Republican Sen. Mike Jorgenson also opposed the measure.

Read the text of the legislation here.

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