AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, have gained widespread use as emergency resuscitation devices to treat cardiac arrest.  The devices help evaluate the distressed individual’s cardiac rhythm and determine whether a shock is needed to help restart a regular rhythm.  The devices are widely available in public and private establishments ranging from airports to fitness centers.  Sales of the devices are booming, with the industry expected to reach $360 million by 2019.

The Nation’s Patchwork of AED Laws

As use of the devices has increased, so has legislation governing them.  However, legislation from state to state is anything but uniform.  Most states provide some type of liability protection for those installing devices on their premises or using such devices.  A few states require installation in certain types of establishments, most commonly, fitness facilities.  Some laws require training of certain employees, like daycare employees or again, fitness facilities.  A comprehensive overview of state laws and statutory citations by the National Conference of State Legislatures can be found here.

Liability Implications for Senior Housing Operators

What does this mean for owners and operators of senior housing facilities?   First, senior housing owners and operators should make sure to be familiar with state legislation in each state that they operate in and should have a system for staying up to date on legislative changes.  As AED usage and support continues to grow, legislative changes should be expected to govern use and reflect changes in industry standards.

Beyond keeping updated on changes in statutory law, owners and operators of senior housing should consider installing AEDs even when not required in order to minimize liability risk.  To date, we don’t know of any cases that have held that a senior housing owner and operator has a common law (i.e. non-statutory) duty to have AEDs installed, but there is reason to believe they could.

In mid-2014, the California Supreme Court found itself faced with a similar issue: did Target, the big box department store chain, have a legal duty to provide AEDs in its store?  The case arose from a lawsuit filed by the estate of Mary Ann Verdugo, a woman that died after experiencing a sudden heart attack in a California Target.

The court first found that California’s statutes regarding AEDs did not create a statutory duty for Target to install AEDs in its stores – if the legislature had intended to create such a duty, they could and would have done so expressly.  The court then noted that common law negligence rules still applied and that Target still owed a its patrons a duty to “protect or aid” them from harm.  Ultimately, the court found that this common law duty did not require Target to install AEDs, but kept its opinion limited to the facts of the case, meaning the California court, or other state courts, could still find that a senior housing facility owes a higher duty than a retail store like Target and as part of that duty must install AEDs.

Financing Upgrades

The provision of AEDs is a de minimis cost, but may be part of an overall strategic plan for a facility’s renovations and upgrades.  Cambridge Realty Capital provides a wide variety of options for senior housing operators in need of financing for a renovation, expansion, or new construction project.

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