By John Wolohan
Common sense tells you that if your view of the playing surface from the seating bowl includes the back of the goal, you may be in danger of being struck by a ball or puck. Or, maybe not. After a Wake County court threw out Teresa Allred’s lawsuit against a women’s soccer league and the owners and operators of a Cary, N.C., stadium now called SAS Soccer Park, an appeals court ruled in December that the lawsuit could continue.
The question of whether or not fitness centers have a legal duty to maintain an automated external defibrillator is still being decided on a state-by-state basis. In one recent case, Fowler v. Bally Total Fitness, Maryland’s Cook County Circuit Court ruled that even though there was no legislative mandate requiring an AED, Bally Total Fitness acted with indifference to the welfare and safety of its patrons when it failed to have one on site. …Other jurisdictions have looked at clubs’ duty of care differently. For example, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District’s decision in L.A. Fitness International v. Julianna Tringali Mayer… sometimes just promptly calling for medical assistance is enough to satisfy your legal duty.
Summary: A girl’s fatal fall highlights the importance of proper supervision and medical care.
Athletics and recreation administrators have a legal duty to not only provide people using their facilities proper supervision during an activity, but also proper emergency medical care in the case of an injury. As is demonstrated in Spotlite Skating Rink Inc. v. Barnes [2008 Miss. LEXIS 322], what constitutes proper supervision and medical care will often hinge on which testimony a jury finds more credible.
On Dec. 25, 2000, 10-year-old Bianca Barnes and some friends took a bus to the Spotlite Skating Rink in Greenwood, Miss. Accounts of what happened after she arrived there vary. According to Barnes’ friends, Barnes was on the roller skating surface, without skates, and fell, hitting her head. After finding her on the floor crying and holding her head, they helped her to a nearby table, where she stayed with her head down for the rest of the evening. At no time, they claimed, were they asked by any Spotlite employees how to get in touch with Barnes’ mother, and no one from Spotlite helped them get home.
Protect your facility with unambiguous waivers, and make good decisions on the fitness floor to minimize risk.
Ning Yan fell while running on a treadmill, and died from his injuries. A representative of his estate sued, alleging that the fitness center was negligent in placing the treadmill too close to a wall. The estate contended that the treadmill belt threw Yan off the rear of the treadmill into a wall that was only 2 ½ feet from the treadmill.
It is time for fitness centers to enter the 21st century and have an onsite Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Legally, fitness centers no longer have a choice in many states. Not only have these states passed legislation requiring fitness facilities to purchase AEDs and train their staff, but more national professional organizations are taking a stand favoring their use. The day is not far when AEDs will be the required standard of care for fitness centers nationwide.