Among the opinions released by the Supreme Court of Texas today was a case out of North Richland Hills, in which the city was sued by the parents of a 12-year-old girl who died as a result of sudden cardiac arrest:
Sarah Friend collapsed on July 14, 2004 while standing in line for the “Green Extreme” water slide at NRH2O, a city-owned water park in North Richland Hills. City employees responded with oxygen masks and other airway equipment, but did not retrieve an Automatic External Defibrillator device (AED) from a storage closet elsewhere on the park grounds. Â As a result, Sarah did not receive defibrillation until twenty-one minutes after her initial collapse, when the city fire department arrived. She was rushed to the hospital but could not be revived, and she died shortly after noon that day. Â The Friends allege that had the city employees used the AED on Sarah immediately, prior to using the airway equipment, the device would have saved her life.
The court was considering the question of whether the Friends even had the right to sue the city. State law grants local governments wide immunity from liability suits, and North Richland Hills argued that there was no cause for an exemption to be granted.
The law provides for such an exemption if the government causes injury or death “byÂ use Â of tangible personal or real property.” Â So the key word became the meaning of “use.” Since the Friends’ case was based on arguing the city’s negligence in not using a device at all (rather than using a device improperly), the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appeals court and found in favor of the city, dismissing the Friends’ suit.