Sports Law • Risk Management

Providing Reasonable Accessibility to Medical Care at Events

Does your organization provide reasonable accessibility to medical care during recreational activities? A recent Federal Court case addressed this issue, with the Court denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss the case and so the matter will proceed to trial unless the parties are able to enter into a settlement agreement. See: Estate of Newton v. Grandstaff, 2011 WL 2678933 (July 8, 2011)
The facts of the case are that De Shawn Newton was participating in a basketball tournament involving 128 teams at a YMCA facility in Dallas, Texas. Newton apparently played well in the first half of the game and was seated on the bench, when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest. The coach attempted CPR, but no one else came to his aid. Newton apparently had a congenital respiratory condition and heart defect. Emergency medical personnel were ultimately dispatched, but allegedly could not enter the facility and so no professional care was available for 30 minutes. The Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants failed to “hire or arrange for any medical personnel, or trainers certified in administering CPR, to provide first aid to injured players in need of medical attention; provide for any emergency medical equipment, such as a defibrillator to be available in the event of a medical emergency; and provide effective ingress and egress to the facility that would have allowed emergency medical personnel to access quickly the premises and render immediate and necessary medical aid.” Plaintiffs alleged that Newton would not have died if the proper safety measures had been taken. Defendants took the position that they had no duty owed to Newton.
Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants owed a duty to Newton and the other basketball tournament participants to act with reasonable care to not cause injury and that they breached their duty of care by not having proper medical assistance and equipment during the tournament. The Court was not asked to decide on the merits of the case, but did conclude that the case could proceed forward, because Plaintiffs allegations were sufficient so that there is a possibility that they can prevail at trial and be awarded damages.
The lesson of this case is that when organizing events, especially if they are on a large scale as occurred in the case described above, it is a good idea to provide access to emergency medical care and first aid. Below are some tips for doing so:
1. Arrange to have an ambulance on site or if you do not make sure that the anticipated time for arrival of an ambulance after placing a call will be very short.
2. Check to see if there is an AED in the facility or reasonable access to a defibrillator on site. If an ambulance or police care with an AED is on site, there may be no need for an AED in the facility.
3. Provide medical, nursing or other first aid personnel at the event.
4. Make sure that if an ambulance or first responder is called, they have quick and easy access to the event and will be able to quickly find the person in need of medical attention.
5. Confirm the location of the nearest hospital. It is more important to have an ambulance and/or doctor on site if the closest hospital is many miles away.