Guest Column - March 2005
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AEDs: Do They Belong in Your Facility?

By Kristen A. Walsh

No legal duty of care

To date, no court has found that a fitness center has a duty to have an AED. However, several lawsuits have been filed alleging that such a duty exists.

Last year, a lawsuit was filed against a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., gym, claiming it failed to provide an AED that could have saved the life of a 49-year-old member who died during an April 2003 workout on a stair-climber. The suit seeks unspecified damages under the Florida Wrongful Death Act. While this case is still pending, several others have been decided in favor of fitness facilities:

  • In 2004, an Illinois Appellate Court affirmed a trial court's dismissal of a lawsuit against a YMCA by a member who suffered SCA while exercising on a treadmill in 2003. The member had alleged that the event was predictable and reasonably foreseeable and that the facility had a duty to have an AED. The court found no such duty.
  • In 2000, a Florida jury returned a verdict in favor of a health club that was sued for negligence for not having an AED or oxygen present in 1998 when a member suffered a medical emergency, which resulted in brain damage. The jury agreed with the defense that no regulation or health club industry standard required AEDs at the time of the incident.
  • In 2002, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court affirmed a trial court's judgment in favor of a defendant health club that was sued by a guest who alleged that the lack of an AED caused more severe injuries than would have been experienced during his 1996 medical emergency if prompt defibrillation occurred. The courts found that that no duty required the club to acquire, maintain and use an AED at the time of the incident.

Club operators can purchase AEDs through IHRSA's Advantage program starting at $1,995 per unit. If a decision is made to move forward with an AED purchase, one unit may not be enough to satisfy the American Heart Association's recommendation that when AEDs are on-site, they be placed where a three-minute response time can be achieved.

Another cost involved is staff training. This cost can be significant in light of the industry's relatively high employee-turnover rates. Training costs can be reduced by having one or more club managers trained by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross to teach the rest of the staff and new hires how to use the AED.

Kristen A. Walsh is IHRSA's content editor. She can be reached at The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a nonprofit association dedicated to the growth, protection, and promotion of the health club industry and represents more than 6,500 clubs worldwide. IHRSA is an international leader in health club industry education and research. For more information, visit