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By:  Joseph (“Joey”) Kroart III, Esquire

When I’m not spending my days at Pessin Katz Law as a business and corporate law attorney, I am often camping, hiking or engaging in some other outdoor activity with my daughters’ Scouts BSA Troop in northern Baltimore County. As an Eagle Scout and an adult leader of the Troop, I have a duty to maintain training in various forms of first aid and emergency response.

Recently, as I was renewing my CPR and Automatic Exterior Defibrillator (AED) certification, it dawned on me that as AEDs continue to become more common in locations where large number of people routinely gather, it is reasonable for me to anticipate that my business clients may begin asking whether they should obtain AEDs to safeguard their employees, customers and/or guests in the event of an emergency. If they pose that question, I should expect that they will pose questions regarding the legal implications of having AEDs as well.

To begin, my guess is that many people have noticed an AED mounted on the wall at one time or another, but the majority don’t fully know what they are used for or how they work. An AED is used to revive someone from sudden cardiac arrest, which often stems from either a dangerously fast heartbeat or an irregular heartbeat. Once the heart stops beating, the proper application of an AED may restore the heart’s rhythm.

A combination of CPR and defibrillation provided by an AED will often be sufficient to keep a victim alive long enough for emergency medical personnel to arrive and render aid. Indeed, various estimates of survival rates of victims treated with a combination of CPR and AED defibrillation are as great as five times higher than the survival rates of those treated only with CPR.

Is my business required to have an AED onsite?

As of the date of this article, with some exceptions, Maryland does not require private businesses to have AEDs onsite. However, it is important to note that statewide and nationwide trends are pointing towards more places of public gatherings being required to have AEDs located within reasonable distances. For instance, school-sponsored athletic events (including practices and scrimmages) at any Maryland public middle school or high school must have an AED onsite as well as an individual trained in the use of the AED. Likewise, any municipality-owned or county-owned swimming pool located in Maryland must also have an AED onsite. California requires AEDs for various commercial and residential buildings that have occupancy of two hundred or more people. And history offers plenty of examples of Maryland eventually following California’s lead when it comes to initiating regulatory measures. Your business may not be required to have an AED now, but that day may be coming.

If I decide to acquire one or more AEDs for my business, is there anything special I need to do?

 Yes! Any private business or property (a “facility”) that wishes to have an AED onsite must first submit an application to the State of Maryland’s EMS Board. The facility will need to demonstrate to the EMS Board that the facility will follow the maintenance schedule for its AED as defined by the manufacturer of the AED, and will have to follow other protocol that the EMS Board establishes. The facility will also have to identify individuals who will be expected to operate the AED on the facility’s behalf and demonstrate that those individuals have completed requisite AED training. Upon approval of the application, the EMS Board will grant a certificate to the facility. The certificate must be renewed by the facility every three years.

Must the AED only be used by a trained individual?

While having prior training on how to use an AED will help in an emergency situation, an AED can be used by anyone—regardless of whether the user has been trained. Instructions for using the device are located in the case of the AED, and once activated, the device itself will issue step-by-step verbal commands to the user.

What if something goes wrong? Can my business or anyone else face civil liability?

Your business—and you—would not face any civil liability for the act or omission of any individual using an AED as long as your business is a registered facility with the EMS Board and possesses a valid certificate at the time of the act or omission. The individual using the AED would not face any civil liability for an act or omission either provided that the individual acted in good faith, reasonably believed that the victim was experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, provided aid in a reasonably prudent manner and provided aid without compensation.

In the case of a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, the presence of an AED can mean the difference between life and death—be it for a customer, an employee or you. However, obtaining an AED isn’t as simple as assembling a first aid kit. If you have questions about laws concerning AEDs and your business, please contact Joey Kroart at Pessin Katz Law at or (410) 339-5787.

Joseph “Joey” Kroart III is an Attorney in the Firm’s Corporate and Real Estate Group. Practicing law is a second career for Mr. Kroart, who prior to attending law school, spent several years running his family’s multi-store retail operation in Ocean City, Maryland and southern Delaware. As a result, Mr. Kroart possesses a rare combination of practical business experience along with formalized legal and business training. He graduated with a joint J.D./M.B.A. degree from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. He can be reached at and 410-339-5787.