After Kings Park Youth board member John McQuaid made the town of Smithtown an offer he thought they couldn’t refuse – that his organization would like to pay for two Automated External Defibrillators to be installed on a town park where their teams play ball – he got a very unexpected response: The town refused.
“It’s a liability,” said town attorney John Zollo.
McQuaid recently wrote the town a letter, explaining that the organization would pay for the life saving units at Memorial Park in Kings Park and would be willing to maintain them. The town, responded in a letter, denying the request, but did not offer an explanation, prompting McQuaid to appear at last week’s town board meeting.
The denial was issued by deputy attorney, Matthew Jakubowski. Zollo, who said he discussed the issue with Jakubowski, was under the impression that KPY wanted sole use of the units. McQuaid clarified the letter, stating anyone who was trained could use it and the group was willing to cover the cost of training and maintaining the units.
Zollo, maintained his belief that the liability risk was still too great.
“KPY should bring it there and take it back so the town does not bear the burden of the responsibility or the extreme potential for liability in respect to this," said Zollo. "So I thought it was prudent that the town deny the request."
Town Councilman Ed Wehrheim agreed with Zollo, who advises, but does not make policy, on the decision.
“The problem for the town is leaving it on the facility," said Wehrheim. "There is no possible way that we can ever ensure that it hasn’t been tampered with. Then someone who is trained goes to use it and it fails. We would assume a tremendous amount of liability. If you just did it at Memorial Park then every other league would expect the same thing.”
According to cardiacscience.com, all 50 states have Good Samaritan laws that encourage AED use by protecting laypersons who use a defibrillator to respond to a medical emergency.
Patch contacted neighboring Town of Brookhaven about their handling of AED units on town property. Spokesperson Jack Kreiger said the Town of Brookhaven has them at town pools, recreation centers , beaches and summer camp program locations.
“The Town of Brookhaven is fully committed to the availability and use of AED units in the event that there is a need. Our Town Safety Officer inspects the units and provides the necessary training to our employees that work where the devices are located,” said Kreiger.
Zollo and Werheim both suggested the organization bring the units back and forth to games, but McQuaid said having more than 1,000 kids and 65 teams made that difficult and questioned the sensibility of the decision, noting that public schools are required to have them.
Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the law doesn’t apply to towns.
McQuaid said he was aware other towns had begun placing them on town property.
“They may not be as diligent as we are,” said Vecchio. “It is not a question of being sued. We have a fiduciary responsibility to every citizen of the town.”
Councilman Thomas McCarty asked the town’s attorney to take a look at the Good Samaritan Law to see if it would apply here. Vecchio said the town would revisit the issue.
“I guess we have to measure that with it wasn’t tampered with and it saves a kids life," said McQuaid. "Are we being a bit too conservative in covering our legal areas?”