Friday, February 12, 2010

AEDs in the Hospitality Sector: The Question is Not Whether to Acquire Them, But How Many

Last week, I attended the 2010 Hospitality Lawyer Conference in Houston, Texas. I have attended this function every year since 2004. It is a “must do” on my schedule. The folks that put this conference together (Stephen Barth and his team from hospitalitylawyer.com) assemble the nation’s leaders to discuss key areas of interest in hospitality-related liability such as food safety, premises liability issues, alcohol service matters, etc. I always learn a great deal about the latest trends in hospitality best practices from my time at this conference.

One of the sessions I attended this year was particularly engaging. This session pertained to the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) (also known as defibrillators) in the hospitality industry. The program was led by Chris Chaimes, executive director of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, the nation’s largest public advocacy organization exclusively dedicated to sudden cardiac arrest awareness and prevention. According to Chaimes, sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States. He was an engaging and informative speaker.

Each year, about 300,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest – more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, house fires, firearms, traffic accidents, and HIV/AIDS combined. As a response to the incidence of this condition, many businesses, churches, schools, airlines, etc have employed the use of AEDs on their premises. However, while some hotel chains, retailers, and food service concepts have adopted the use of AEDs, statistics show most others haven’t. What Chaimes argued was that for those that have not adopted AED use, it is becoming less of a choice and instead more of a mandate. The debate now is not whether to install AEDs in a particular facility, but rather how many. He asserts having an AED is arguably part of the standard of care a business like a hotel or food service establishment owes to its invitees.

Chaimes put things in prospective regarding the prevalence of AEDs in our society when he analyzed the average business traveler’s day: He or she goes to the gym in the morning – an AED is likely there; he or she drops a child off at school – an AED is likely there; he or she swings by the office before going to the airport – the office building likely has an AED; he or she gets on a plane and travels for a meeting scheduled the next day – both the airport and the aircraft have an AED; however, when he or she gets to the hotel for the night, the chances are less than optimal that an AED will be there. In light of the prevalence of AEDs in everyday American life, their absence in the hospitality sector is a disconnect for Chaimes.

There are multiple pros to having an AED in your hotel or food service establishment. First, they are a proven method of providing rapid response to a patron/guest stricken with sudden cardiac arrest. Second, the technology has become cheaper so that the acquisition of AEDs is reasonable. Third, AEDs are simple to use, which translates into easy staff training. Fourth – and perhaps most importantly – due to the wide presence of AEDs in public areas, the public has an expectation an AED will be available if and when needed. Based on this expectation, the legal argument exists that having AEDs on your property is a component of your standard of care.

Many businesses have been reluctant to install AEDs due to liability concerns. However, according to Chaimes, there has not been a successful suit to date based on the use of an AED. As well, most jurisdictions have Good Samaritan laws, which work to immunize businesses from their use of AEDs in exigent circumstances. Finally, while the failure to properly maintain an AED may be a basis for suit, AEDs are simple to maintain and require only very simple periodic inspection. Bottom line: there is little excuse to not have an AED in your hotel or food service operation, liability-wise.

AEDs in your hotel or food-service establishment: The right thing to do for your guests and your business.

More about the Hospitality Law Conference: http://hospitalitylawyer.com/

More about AEDs and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association: http://associationdatabase.com/aws/SCAA/pt/sp/home_page

The above constitutes an article concerning an item of interest for those in the hospitality sector. It is not meant to be understood or construed as legal advice. For information concerning the obligation of your business to have and maintain AEDs , please be sure to contact an attorney practicing in your jurisdiction to determine the same.