University of Miami Law Review


An automated external defibrillator (AED) is one of the greatest advancements in defibrillator technology in the past several decades. Its purpose is to treat sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death in this country. An AED checks the heart’s rhythm and will dispatch an electric jolt when needed to reestablish the organ’s normal electrical pattern. The magic of this portable device is that anyone can use it and it is relatively inexpensive to purchase. Studies have shown that access to AEDs can improve the odds of surviving a cardiac arrhythmia outside of the hospital and the American Heart Association estimates that an AED can improve a person’s chances of surviving the cardiac event by 49–75%.

Not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for the widespread availability of AEDs. There is a patchwork of statutes, rules, and regulations concerning the use of AEDs, and a number of entities are fearful of liability issues. While airlines are mandated to have AEDs on commercial aircraft, and Congress encourages the placement of these life-saving devices in federal buildings, private industries have resisted most proposed laws that require the installation of an AED on their premises. Health clubs, shopping centers, hotels, and country clubs are examples of businesses in this category. Various theories have been advanced to defeat any proposed law that requires mandatory installation, but the bottom line seems to be a liability concern. This article will explore the history of AEDs, the legislation on the topic, and the cases that have arisen in an attempt to impose liability against an entity for the failure to have an AED on the premise during a cardiac event.