The suit resulted from an incident where a Chicago engine company responded on a medical emergency, and the defibrillator did not work. The defibrillator failure that was attributed to the fact that the batteries were not replaced every 2 years as
recommended by the manufacturer. The patient died despite CPR being initiated almost immediately by his son, an off-duty firefighter.
The case raises a number of interesting issues:
- Could the City have been found liable at trial in the absence of proof that “but for” the dated batteries, the decedent would have survived? In legal parlance, the question is framed a bit differently – and focuses on whether the batteries were the proximate cause of the dead.
- Does the City have immunity for such an occurrence?
- Did the City owe the decedent a legal duty, and if so was it a public duty or a special duty?
The settlement means none of these issues will be explored, but the case raises another interesting question: What is the duty of other fire apparatus that do not even have defibrillators? Is there a legal duty to have a functioning AED on board every engine company?
The engine company in question had an AED. If a fire company is not required to have an AED, but has one – does that create a duty to ensure that the AED is functional?