Lowering the Risk of Health Club Deaths With AEDs

State law may require their presence in health clubs

The California family of a man who died of cardiac arrest received a settlement in their lawsuit alleging negligence and wrongful death against a Studio City gym and a personal trainer. The gym member, Marc Palotay, went into cardiac arrest while working out under the supervision of his personal trainer. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.

The trainer, who was an independent contractor and not a Studio City employee, failed to attempt aid with an AED (automatic external defibrillator) despite knowing his client was having a heart attack. The lawsuit alleged Palotay didn’t receive defibrillation until paramedics arrived, a delay which resulted in his death.

The family claimed no defibrillator was in place at the gym, as mandated by state law. A Studio City manager stated that an AED was on the premises, but the personal trainer was responsible for its use in this case. The same manager pointed out that Palotay, upon joining the gym, had signed Studio City’s waiver of liability.

AEDs in health clubs

Laws regarding AEDs began emerging across the U.S. in the 1990s, including Good Samaritan laws. The hope was that legislation would decrease the risks of liability and AEDs and Risk Managementencourage placement and use of AEDs in public settings. While each state has existing AED-related laws, they vary widely.

AEDs are required in health clubs by state law in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Rhode Island. Most hotel spas are exempt from such laws. Washington, DC requires AEDs in recreational facilities.

Use of an AED in a health club can save lives, but it also carries heavy responsibilities, not the least of which are regular maintenance and staff training. Learn more in “Use of Defibrillators in Fitness Clubs” and “Defibrillator Failure: Fitness Center Liability.”  

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation provides information on AED laws in each state here.


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