Legal liability for a heart attack on premisis

I understand that this may turn into a GD. If it does, please feel free to move it

From this story.

In short, on April 12, 2000, Bill Camp had a heart attack at Commerica Park during a Detroit Tigers game. He died as a result of that heart attack.

His widow is now suing the Tigers (and other parties) over the death. In short, she claims that the team did not train its employees to handle medical emergencies properly.

Now, then, am I responsible for a medical emergency (such as a heart attack – which I have no control over) that occurs in my house? To what degree are the Tigers really responsible for this? I would think that if someone comes into my house and suffers a medical condition, then they can’t sue me if I don’t have the training to help them.[sup]*[/sup] Or does everyone who has someone on their property have to know how to care for injuries or else be subject to a lawsuit? Or is it different because Commerica Park is a public place?

[sup]*[/sup]As it turns out, I am a former EMT, but even so, in a case of a heart attack, for example, there is darn little I can do aside from making the patient comfortable, administering oxygen (if I have it) and getting an ambulance ASAP.

Zev Steinhardt

The details are not clear, so I don’t know if the Good Samaritan Law covers it.

Even so, unless some gross negligence is proven, I don’t see how the franchise can be liable for a heart attack.

People who sue for stupid reasons deserve to have a heart attack themselves.

I wish America had the ‘Loser pays’ law.

This is a vaguely remembered from law school answer. Perhaps someone with better knowledge of personal injury law will be along later.

Although there are some variations, particularly in older theories of law, you are under a duty to provide reasonable care to you guests and invitees. What is reasonable varies depending on the circumstances.

If you as a private individual invite a guest into your home and they have a medical emergency, it is not reasonable for them to expect that you have any medical training or equipment. Once you’ve called the paramedics, my guess is that you’ve fulfilled your duty.

However if you operate a major league ballpark, with tens of thousands of visitors every day in the season, it is reasonable for you to have some trained emergency medical staff and basic life-saving equipment on hand during games. At issue in the case seems to be that the ballpark is alleged not to have had automatic defibrilator and trained staff available.

Did the ballpark have the reasonable amount of medical staff and equipment for the game? I don’t know, and it’s probably a question for a jury to decide. If the ballpark didn’t even have a first aid stand, that’s probably unreasonable. The question of whether it should have a defibrilator ready and available for use with trained staff is a closer call.

In any event, it is a non-frivolous basis for a lawsuit.

Thanks Billdo. I wasn’t actually questioning the merit of the suit, but rather what my responsibilities are in my own home. Since Commerica Park is (presumably) private property, I figured that if the Tigers were responsible for this, then I might be responsible for someone in my own home.

Zev Steinhardt

Zev–you are responsible for someone in your own home, exaclty as Billdo pointed out.

Everyone has the responsibility to act as a reasonably prudent person would at all times, so you would be liable if you didn’t act as a reasonably prudent person. Like Billdo, I’d guess that a reasonably prudent homeowner would call 911 and keep people from further harming the victime until the ambulance showed up, and a reasonably prudent ballpark owner would have a person with some medical training and maybe some advanced equipment on hand.

Therefore, if someone had a heart attack in your house and then sued you alleging that you were negligent because you did not have a defibrilator, I’d bet they’d lose. If they sued alleging that you were negligent because you didn’t call the ambulance until you finished your beer, I’d bet they’d win.

That’s reasonable. But then why would the Tigers be responsible for not having a defibrilator. As long as the team tried to care care of him, get him to a hospital as quickly as possible, etc. (i.e. not show gross negligence), I would think the same rule applies to them, no? Why are the Tigers required to have medical personnel in house but I’m not required to?

Zev Steinhardt

Agree with Billdo and Taxguy. Same thing applies to security measures. Normally, a business has no duty to provide security for its patrons (against criminal acts of others). But if the owner knows that there’s a gang that regularly assaults customers in his parking lot, a duty to provide security (or at least warn customers) kicks in. Also, if the owner undertakes to provide security (or medical assistance), he generally has a duty to do so competently. (Good Samaritan statutes might change this.)

If I go to a store in a bad neighborhood, relying on the fact that there’s a lot guard and surveillance cameras, and I’m attacked because the guard and the guy who was supposed to be watching the cameras are playing poker in the basement, the business owner may be liable.

Fine. But I don’t think (and if I’m wrong, please correct me) heart attacks at ballgames are common enough to warrant requiring the Tigers to keep medical staff on hand. That’s akin to crimes committed in a store in an area where usually nothing happens, no?

Zev Steinhardt

I’m not sure that the Tigers would lose this case. It may not be reasonable to require anybody to have a defibrilator. But if anyone has to have one, a baseball stadium should.

Look at it this way. In the course of a baseball season, there are probably probably several heart attacks in each major league stadium. A defibrilator would get used fairly regularly, and likely would save lives. It’s not crazy to say that the Tiger’s first aid station should have one available for its patrons.

On the other hand, the chances that one of your guests is going to have a heart attack in your house this year is fairly remote. Requiring you to buy an expensive medical device to protact against that rare event would be unreasonable.

My firm, which has about 60 employees and less than 10 clients in the office on a normal day, has a defibrilator and 6 or 7 of us are trained how to use it. If it’s a good idea for us, it sure is for the Tigers.

Cross post. I disagree about the frequency of heart attacks. With that many people on hand 3-4 days a week, a fair number of cardiac events are inevitable. I think my estimate of “several” in the course of a year is conservative. (Not all would get picked up on TV, of course.)

That’s because the Tigers are admitting large numbers of visitors for a fee. As a private person, the likelyhood of having a guest in your house have a medical emergency is probably quite small. Also considered is the fact that your guests are social invitees and not paying customers. As such, they cannot reasonably expect you to have emergency medical facilities at home, absent some unusual circumstances.

As a large public attraction, particularly one selling alcohol and having balls flying into the stands, it is virtually certain that over the course of a season there will be some fans that need medical attention, some quite serious. For the Tigers to charge people to come to the park and then not have any medical facilities at all would be unreasonable. Exactly what facilities they should have is a matter of reasonable judgment.

Given the relatively low cost of automatic defibrilators these days, it might be considered unreasonable not to have one in a major league ballpark, particularly if there has been a history of fans having heart attacks in the stands. At the very least, going to a ballpark I would expect a CPR and First Aid trained medical staff able to get to injured fans in the stands reasonably promptly.

The Tigers most definitely have medical personnel on premises, but they are likely for the benefit of the players at the game more than the fans.

Last year, the Dodgers twice had players get severe injuries: Alex Cora was hit in the head in a collision and suffered a concussion and Kaz Ishii got hit by a line drive. Both times, it took a suprisingly long time for an ambulance to come on the field to take the players away to the hospital.

Zev, Billdo is correct. There is an immense movement on to provide Public Access Defibrillators in many public venues. Yes, I know, a baseball park is not necessarily public property. However, the movement is afoot to have these items accessable.

They are icon-instruction driven, and therefore require zero training. ( The link provided above mentions training, but the truth is that it is not necessary in any manner.) The more this catches on, the more the plaintiff will win in these cases. My children are going to attend a public High School in New York State in a few years. It was built just a few years ago. There is a small recessed shelf built into the wall of the lobby, with a P.A.D. in it.

It is not the only one in the building. There are roughly 2,000 students in the school.

I have seriously debated puchasing a refurbished A.E.D. to keep in my car. It’s not something I can afford now, but have been sorely tempted. Every place of employ no matter how small, should have an A.E.D. and do a general training day on C.P.R. and the use of the unit.

I’ve done quite a few cardiac arrest calls, and I’ve NEVER heard mention of a need to have such a device in a private single-family home. A health care facility, or long-term residential facility? You betcha. A private home? Never heard of such a thing…


Fair enough. I could see the difference in Commerica Park being a public venue vs. my house being a private venue.

Thank you everyone for helping me understand the distinction.

Zev Steinhardt

Not sure this is apples-to-apples, but several years ago Cecil wrote a column about people getting hit by a baseball while at the park. In that column, Cecil said that every ticket to a game has a printed disclaimer on it, essentially absolving the club of any responsibility for injuries suffered while on the premises. Not sure if that would cover medical emergencies like heart attacks, though.

IIRC, the disclaimers usually state that they include injuries that are incidental to the game (batted balls, etc.). I don’t think heart attacks are incidental to the game (unless it’s Game 7 of the World Series and your team has blown a 10-run lead in the last inning).

Zev Steinhardt

Agree about the disclamers. It’s a different issue, though. The disclaimer absolves the stadium and ballclub from responsibility for the injury, not inadequate treatment afterwards. (IIRC)

In the heart attack scenario, no one is saying that the stadium caused the heart attack.

In either case, if the stadium failed to provide reasonable treatment afterwards, it would arguably be liable.

EMT who used to work as part of a “special events” team checks in.

Like in many other things we encounter in life, the venue is often required to provide medical coverage by their insurance carrier. Having worked about 40 events of various types (concerts, sports events, etc) I can say with some authority that when you put 10,000+ people in one place for a few hours, someone is going to have a problem. One concert I worked we had 4 emergency transports to local hospitals and 17 other patients for various small injuries and medical problems during the 4 hour event. It was in my top 3 wildest days of work.

If you are interested in the biz, event medical is a very fun and dynamic area to work, lots of autograph opportunities, see lots of good shows, and as always, be there when folks need you the most.

I have a buddy that runs a minor league ballclub. His tickets all have a similar disclaimer on them, and the law is quite clear that by attending a ball game you assume the risk of getting hit by foul balls, etc.

Every year he has a few people that sue the club after getting hit by a ball. He says that, despite the disclaimer and the law, his insurance company will routinely settle these suits rather than undertake the expense of defending them.

I’m not completely current on disclaimer law, even in my state, but I used to be very familiar with this area. (I represented a Chicago valet parking company many years ago which had a disclaimer on the back of its tickets.)

They’re not always enforceable, especially if they’re not specifically agreed to or at least called to the attention of the customer before the transaction takes place. (The reasoning is that the customer may not realize what the ticket says.) 10 years ago, cases in Illinois went both ways on the issue.

At some point, the legislature passed a statute dealing with stadium disclaimers, making them enforceable. Disclaimers in other situations were not addressed by this law. Your state’s law may (and probably does) vary. Also, I think I recall a case or two that distinguishes between normal, expected risks (foul balls)
and unexpected risks that shouldn’t be part of the game (deliberately thrown bats by batters angry at a call.)