Lawsuit Filed Against Fitness Center for Failing to Use AED on SCA Victim

Posted on 01/19/2012

EDWARDSVILLE, IL--An Alton man has filed suit against the owners of Nautilus Fitness Center in Alton, claiming the facility failed to have the proper heart resuscitation equipment on hand when the plaintiff had a sudden cardiac arrest.

Trent Rice claims the center disobeyed a state law by failing to have on hand an automated external defibrillator (AED), which is required under Illinois law. The suit filed in Madison County Circuit Court claims Rice was working out at the facility when he collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.

The suit claims Rice suffered permanent injuries to his heart and brain that could have been averted. Rice has a court-appointed guardian, Cindy Rice, who is pursuing the suit in his behalf.

The attorney for Nautilus said the facility actually did have the required equipment, but Rice fell off the back of a treadmill and landed face-down.

"He was a fairly large man," the attorney said.

There were other people at the center at the time of the incident, but a nurse who also was present advised them not to move Rice because he may have suffered a spinal injury. The attorney said the defibrillator cannot be used while the patient is face-down.

Named as the defendant in the lawsuit is a corporation called Athletes in Action, doing business as Nautilus Fitness Center.

The suit claims the SCA happened June 29, 2010.

Rice's suit claims the center failed to have an AED on hand, failed to have properly maintained the device, failed to have properly trained its staff as required by the AED program, and failed to update and implement the policy and procedures manual.

However, Alton Fire Chief Greg Bock said Wednesday that the owners of Nautilus contacted him some three years ago and educated him about the new state statute requiring health facilities that are staffed 24 hours to have an AED on the premises and have their employees trained in using both the AED and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"They told me they were staffed, had all the equipment, and that their staff had received all the training they needed to make themselves 100 percent compliant," Bock said. "As far as I'm aware, Nautilus had all of the equipment and all of the mandated training that they were supposed to have for the staff and the facility."

The fire chief said he was "confident" that Nautilus had the equipment at the time of the incident in question, but he acknowledged he hadn't seen the AED himself.

Illinois passed a law that went into effect in 2005 that requires indoor fitness facilities to have at least one AED and a written emergency plan.

An amendment that went into effect requires training, maintenance and oversight concerning the devices.

The law is called the Colleen O'Sullivan Law after a suburban Chicago woman who died of sudden cardiac arrest in a fitness center.

Her aunt, Lynne Donegan, said she and other friends of O'Sullivan fought a tough legislative battle to get the law passed. The actual use of the devices, even when they are on hand, has become an issue in some cases, she said.

In a recent case in the Chicago area, the device was locked in the manager's office.

"We want them to become as familiar as fire extinguishers," she said.

Donegan is not familiar with the Nautilus case and was not commenting on the suit.

The Rice suit also claims that the club operators failed to inform employees about the location of the AED, failed to administer basic CPR and failed to administer basic first aid.


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