A recent case form the Miami Division of the Southern District of Florida, addresses a hotel’s liability when a guest suffers a heart attack while working out in the hotel’s fitness room. Court papers reveal George De La Flor was a guest with his family at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach Hotel located in Miami Beach. Most unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack while exercising in the hotel’s fitness room. Exercising next to Mr. De La Flor was a surgeon who immediately came to his aid. Though a defibrillator was located on hotel property, none was in the fitness room. A nearby boy went in search for the defibrillator, but had to delay his search to call 911 as no one from the hotel alerted the Miami Beach paramedics. Without a defibrillator, the surgeon performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“CPR”) until the paramedics arrived. Mr. De La Flor survived the heart attack, but was left with permanent injuries.
Mr. De La Flor filed a lawsuit in Miami, Florida. The essence of his lawsuit is as a guest of the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, the hotel owed him the basic duty to ensure that in the event of a medical emergency it had the basic equipment necessary to assist him. Specifically, Mr. De La Flor argued the Ritz-Carlton South Beach breach its legal duty by failing to: (1) have a readily accessible defibrillator; (2) bring a defibrillator to the fitness room once it knew he was in danger; (3) call 911 within a reasonable time; (4) train its employees to timely deploy the defibrillator located onsite; and finally (5) escort Miami Beach Fire Rescue to him in an expeditious manner when they arrived on scene. The Court rejected all of Mr. De La Flor’s arguments.
The court first found a Florida hotel has no legal duty to maintain a defibrillator on its premises, and as such, was not required to have ready access to one in the fitness room.
Secondly the court rejected Mr. De La Flor’s next argument that The Ritz-Carlton was negligent for not immediately bringing the defibrillator to the fitness facility once he went into cardiac arrest. Again the court reasoned that since there was no duty to have a defibrillator, there cannot be a duty to expeditiously bring one to the fitness room when a guest begins to suffer a heart attack.
As with the first two arguments, the court also rejected Mr. De La Flor’s contention that The Ritz-Carlton was negligent for not calling 911, thereby requiring the boy to place the call delaying his search for the defibrillator. This holding was again based upon the finding that a Florida hotel has no duty to have a defibrillator and, as such, no duty to take action to enable other guests to search for one that may be in the vicinity.
The Court also rejected Mr. De La Flor’s final argument that The Ritz-Carlton was negligent because it failed to promptly escort the Miami Beach paramedics when they arrived at the hotel. Though this argument may have succeeded with another guest, it failed for Mr. De La Flor as he was being treated by the Good Samaritan surgeon. The Court dismissing Mr. De La Flor’s claim relied the rule of law that a hotel’s duty to render assistance to a sick or injured guest ceases once the guest, “is in the hands of an apparently competent person who has taken charge of him.” Mr. De La Flor elected to appeal this decision, and the case is currently pending before the Federal Eleventh Circuit.
Though the court did not favor Mr. De La Flor’s situation, the law does provide many protections for guests staying a Florida hotels, resorts and spa. The lawyers of Brais Brais & Rusak are well versed in South Florida hotel personal injury lawsuits. If you or a family member was injured due to hotel negligence and would like to know your rights, feel free to contact our firm for a free consultation.