The information contained in this section is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advise. Any person considering the purchase of an AED or establishing an AED program should consult their own legal counsel. If a discrepancy is discovered, defer to the following sources:
- Automated External Defibrillator related issues: AED manufacturer recommendations.
- Legal requirements: State and local legislation.
- Medical references or procedures: Program Medical Director and American Heart Association guidelines.
To date, there have been no cases reported where someone was held liable for using an AED. However, there have been lawsuits for not having an AED regarding the "standard of care" (see examples below). All states have passed "Good Samaritan" legislation protecting the lay rescuer from lawsuits ( or to the ) for more information". Exact wording taken from Congressional Bill, Section 248, defines this protection:
Any person who provides emergency medical care through the use of an automated external defibrillator is immune from civil liability for any personal injury or wrongful death resulting from the provision of such care, except as provided in subsection (c).
(c) INAPPLICABILITY OF IMMUNITY:
Immunity under subsections (a) and (b) does not apply to a person if the person engaged in gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct in the circumstances described in such subsections that apply to the person with respect to automated external defibrillators.
1) Busch Gardens, FL: found negligent for not properly training its employees to provide emergency care, and for failing to have essential medical equipment, including a defibrillator on premises. Plaintiff awarded $500,000 in damages for the death of her teenage daughter! This case was reported by Richard A. Lazar, Defibrillators Enter the Business Marketplace, Occupational Health & Safety, August(1997)
2) United Airlines: suit filed by widow of a passenger who died from SCA, alleges the on-board medical equipment carried by the airline was not adequate to treat her husband. A defibrillator was not on board.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a physician’s prescription to buy an AED, and each state has its own training requirements. Note- some states may allow the prescribing physician to be licensed in a different state. For example, almost every state requires an individual to complete basic CPR and AED courses from a nationally recognized organization such as the American Heart Association. Many states require a licensed medical professional — often the medical director of the EMS system or the medical advisor to the workplace — to oversee the program to ensure quality.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia now include using an AED as part of their Good Samaritan acts. These acts vary by state, but generally they limit the liability of rescuers using AEDs and others involved with an AED program. Please read the Good Samaritan Act for the state for specifics. In addition, the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act (CASA) provides limited immunity to persons using the AED and the purchaser of the AED unit. CASA is a “gap-filling” federal measure that does not supercede existing state law which provides immunity. “…The benefits associated with widespread early defibrillation far outweigh liability risk.”*
Based upon our research and experience, it is our opinion that your risk of liability appears to generally decrease with the implementation of an AED program (as opposed to the inverse). Additionally, the potential benefits of having an AED on-site are obvious (see LIVES SAVED). Emergency Responders Network does not, however, claim to provide "professional legal advice" that might influence individuals in the purchase of AEDs or the establishment of any "safety" program. As with anything, the legal ramifications of implementing an AED Program should be considered carefully. We suggest you research the issues and/or consult professional counsel should this be a concern of yours. Listed below are links to resources that you may find useful...
American Heart Association brochure regarding AED Legislation (pdf download - 32kb)
National Conference of State Legislation
Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act of 2000 (pdf download - 96kb)