Today, April 2, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court issued its tremendous decision in Limones v. School District of Lee County, et al. - Case No. SC13-932.
Abel Limones, Jr. was young high school student athlete who collapsed on the soccer field during a high school match in 2008. He quickly stopped breathing and became pulseless. His heart was in ventricular fibrillation and he needed defibrillation with the AED the School Board required be present at every game and practice. The young boy's coach began CPR and yelled out several times for the AED, but school administrators in charge of the AED stood by and never gave it to the coach. After a lawsuit was filed, the school administrators incredulously claimed the AED was on a golf cart just 20 feet from where Abel collapsed. The fire department and emergency medical services arrived on the scene, applied their own defibrillator and, not surprisingly, were able to resuscitate the young student. However, the delay in applying an AED caused by the school administrators' not providing it to the coach despite now claiming it was right there, resulted in Abel sustaining catastrophic brain damage from the lack of oxygen during his resuscitation, which would have been much quicker had the school administrators provided the coach the AED. Abel miraculously survived, but is essentially in a near vegetative state and needs 24 hour care for the rest of his life. Thus far, his incredible family has struggled to provide his care since the School Board has refused to accept responsibility for this violation of the student safety rule mandating that they take proper post-injury procedures to protect a student from an aggravation of an injury. As a result, a tragic incident occurred that caused unimaginable harms and losses to Abel and his family, and that could potentially happen to anyone else who turn their children over to schools with the expectation that they will be safe.
The trial court granted summary judgment and entered final judgment in favor of the School Board. On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's ruling and found that there was no duty on the School Board to make an AED available, diagnose the need for, or using an AED.
Mr. Rash, with the help of exceptional appellate attorney, Elizabeth K. Russo, of Miami, sought review of the Second District's decision in the Florida Supreme Court asserting that it was in conflict with prior decisions. After Mr. Rash presented oral argument on October 6, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued its opinion today quashing the decision of the Second District and holding that the School Board of Lee County "owed a common law duty to supervise Abel, and that once injured, . . . owed a duty to take reasonable measures and come to his aid to prevent aggravation of his injury. It is a matter for the jury to determine under the evidence whether [the School Board's] actions breached that duty and resulted in the damage that Abel suffered."
Importantly, the Court further held that the School Board "is not entitled to immunity from suit under" the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act and remanded the case back for trial.
Abel and his family will now be able to present this case to a jury that will determine if it wants to protect their community from the School Board's violations of student safety rules or wants to reward the School Board's conduct dooming it to be repeated.
It has been more than 6 years since this preventable tragedy occurred, and David C. Rash continues to fight for Abel and his wonderful family, as well as other individuals, families and their communities when mayhem and carnage results from those that do not follow the safety rules meant to protect us all.