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Jury to Weigh Soccer Field Collapse Liability

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CN) - A school board must face a trial after a teen remains in a vegetative state from a soccer field collapse, the Florida Supreme Court ruled.

The 18-page decision gives a heartbreaking description of the tragedy that befell East Lee County High School's Abel Limones Jr., during his soccer team's away game at Riverdale High School on Nov. 13, 2008.

Personnel rushed onto the field after the 15-year-old collapsed.

There was no sign that Limones had collided with another player, but he first found himself unable to rise and then stopped breathing and lost consciousness.

A nurse began CPR when the boy's pulse faded, while the East Lee coach yelled for an AED, short for automated external defribrillator.

No one brought Riverdale's AED out, however, and it was not until 26 minutes after the teen's collapse that emergency responders managed to revive him using shocks and drugs.

Limones survived but remains in a nearly persistent vegetative state because of the length of time his brain was deprived of oxygen.

Faced with having to provide their son with round-the-clock care for the rest of his life, Limones' parents sued the School Board of Lee County, which controlled both the Riverdale and East Lee high schools.

The couple's expert testified that Limones suffered from a previously undetected heart condition, and that earlier administration of an AED was critical to saving the teen.

The trial court granted the school board summary judgment, however, and the 2nd District Court of Appeals affirmed.

Reversing 5-2 last week, the Florida Supreme Court found that the case of a school's duty to its student is not the same as the commercial precedent cited, which involved a health club that failed to provide a patron in cardiac distress with an AED.

"Florida courts have recognized a special relationship between schools and their students based upon the fact that a school functions at least partially in the place of parents during the school day and school-sponsored activities," Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote for the majority.

Lewis added that it is up to a "jury to determine whether, under the relevant circumstances, the school employee has acted unreasonably and, therefore, breached the duty owed."

The three-person dissent meanwhile says the appeal should have been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

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