Saddening news came this past week: 11-year old Kaleb Harris died after
suddenly collapsing during track and field practice at Opa-Locka public
charter school Florida International Academy. Parents and other students
were in attendance and witnessed the incident.
Kaleb was transported by paramedics to a local hospital, where he was pronounced
dead. The family, faculty, and students are understandably devastated
by Kaleb’s sudden and tragic death. Unfortunately, this incident
is frighteningly familiar for many other parents who have also experienced
the death of a son or daughter on school grounds due to sudden cardiac
arrest, or SCA.
Kaleb’s life may have been saved by an AED if present and used by
While the news of his death is shocking to the people who knew young Kaleb,
we need to remember in this moment that Kaleb’s life could have
been saved by an automated external defibrillator, also known as an AED.
Kaleb’s death follows a familiar scenario: a young student athlete
suddenly collapses on a sporting field at school, and subsequently dies.
While the Harris family needs an autopsy performed to determine the true
cause of death, it’s the opinion of at least one medical professional
that the cause was most likely sudden cardiac arrest, or SCA.
SCA occurs due to irregular heart rhythms that cause the heart to stop
beating, which causes the body to stop breathing (hence the collapsing.)
An AED can save the life of a SCA victim by immediately re-establishing
a normal heart rhythm in the patient.
For every 10 seconds that an AED is not used on someone experiencing SCA,
their chance of survival decreases by 30 seconds. However, if an AED is
used within the first 90 seconds, victims have an excellent chance for
survival with no long-term damage.
Florida International Academy is required to have had an AED present on
Florida International Academy is a public charter school, meaning, it’s
publicly-funded and therefore subject to laws that require the school
administration to have AEDs on site and functional at all times.
The school therefore should have had an AED on the field where Kaleb was
attending track practice. If staff, including coaches, did not have an
AED present, serious liability may exist that could allow the Harris family
to bring forward a
wrongful death lawsuit.
The Harris family may be able to sue Florida International Academy for
The Employee Manual (published and accessible on the school’s website) makes no mention
of a policy for AEDS, the federal requirement to have one, or a procedure
to follow in the event a child experiences sudden cardiac arrest on school grounds.
Further, this isn’t the only time Florida International Academy has
made the news, for a bad reason. Back in 2014, the
Miami Herald published an article about the impending closing of the school due to poor testing scores among
its students. The school received the waiver from the School Board necessary
to continue operations.
The school writes on its website that it has 250 students, with over 90%
of the student body being African American on free or reduced federal
lunch programs. The campus is large, at 6 acres, having opened in 1998.
Further, the school says it’s committed to “meeting all applicable
health, safety, and civic requirements”. It seems to follow that
having an AED accessible and on-site, and used in an emergency, would
fall under that mandate.
How hiring a personal injury lawyers who is experienced in AED law can help
The Harris family, and other families around the country who have experienced
the painful loss of a child due to SCA, should seriously consider hiring
a personal injury attorney who has experience litigating these very specific
types of cases.
Craig Goldenfarb is one of the few attorneys in the United States who practice
in this area of law. It’s a new area of law, which makes it a challenging
one. But Mr. Goldenfarb is among the pre-eminent lawyers in the country
wrongful death cases involving the non-use of AEDs.
A private consultation with Mr. Goldenfarb is always free, and our law
firm works on a contingency basis. That means no client ever has to pay
any upfront costs or fee for us to work on their case.
If you or someone you know has lost a student to SCA on school grounds,
please call 561-697-4440 and let the receptionist know that you have a
potential wrongful death case.