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A Lesson in Case Strategy from a Tragic Accident

It’s the sort of thing every parent dreads. A day on the sports field that ends up going terribly, terribly wrong. That’s what happened to the plaintiffs in the 2013 case of Limones v. School Board of Lee County. Their son collapsed on the soccer field in the middle of a game and went into cardiac arrest. The coaches and parents on the scene quickly called 911 and attempted CPR, but to no avail. When the EMTs arrived in the ambulance a little over twenty minutes later, they were able to shock young Abel Limones back to life. But he would never be the same. Abel suffered permanent damage as a result of prolonged anoxic shock to his brain, and will likely be in a near-vegetative state for the rest of his life.

Could Something Have Been Done Better?

Naturally, there were many questions about Abel’s condition and his injuries. Chief among them was whether there was anything else that could have been done to save Abel. Tragically, it turned out that there was. A few dozen yards away, attached to a golf cart, there was an AED (automated external defibrillator), which could have restarted Abel’s heart more quickly and shortened the anoxic shock that his brain underwent. However, no one at Abel’s school seemed to have known about the AED and, evidently, no one in the crowd heard Abel’s coach asking for someone to go and see if there was an AED available, though he swore in court to having done so.

This is — there can be no doubt — a shocking and painfully sad story. For better or worse, however, its emotional salience has no bearing on whether a successful legal claim could be brought against the school board for the failure to retrieve the AED and use it on Abel. And that’s exactly what the Florida Court of Appeals would ultimately decided in Limones: That the school board was not liable for what happened to Abel, both because it had performed its legal duty of having an AED on hand (even though the device wasn’t used) and because it was, in general, immune from negligence-based lawsuits like the one Abel’s parents brought. The Court therefore upheld the entry of summary judgment in favor of the school board, and Abel’s parents weren’t able to recover.

An Attorney Can Help in a Case Like This

Abel’s case, however, seems to invite other questions. Why was Abel allowed to play in the first place? Did anyone at the school know about Abel’s condition? And if the conditions on the field were so extreme that Abel would collapse and have his heart fail in the middle of play, should the team really have been out there that day? A good attorney knows to ask all these questions — to sort out all the angles that could help contribute to the theory of the case most likely to result in success — or, where there is no good angle, to deliver the bad news.

The experienced attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associates have been dealing with brain injury and other serious trauma cases for years, and will help find the approach that’s most likely to get results.

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