German court rules teachers must carry out first aid

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The case concerned a student who became severely disabled after collapsing in gym class. He sued, arguing his teacher should have done first aid. Germany’s highest criminal court ruled in his favor, but only to a point.

    
People practice on first aid dummies (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm)

Gym teachers must use first aid in the event of an emergency and they must be up-to-date on techniques, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday.

The case involved a young man who sued the German state of Hesse after he collapsed in gym class and became severely disabled. The state previously argued that the teacher was not liable, but Germany’s highest criminal court disagreed.

What the court ruled:

  • Physical education or gym teachers are obligated to carry out first aid “in a timely and proper manner.”
  • The teacher in the case was found to have violated her official duties by not attempting to resuscitate the student.
  • The BGH overturned two lower court decisions that ruled in favor of the state and the teacher.
  • Although the court ruled in the student’s favor, he will have to prove that the lack of first aid caused his disability in order to secure damages.

The right way to administer first aid

Collapse in gym class

In January 2013, an 18-year-old student at a high school in the German city of Wiesbaden suddenly collapsed during a warm-up at his gym class.

The teacher quickly called for an ambulance and positioned the boy on his side. She did not, however, attempt to revive him and CPR was only delivered eight minutes later when the ambulance arrived at the school.

The student, who is now 24-years-old, ended up suffering irreversible brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and is now severely disabled.

He and his family sued the teacher’s employer, the state of Hesse, arguing that the first aid measures were insufficient. They demanded at least €500,000 in pain and suffering damages, €100,000 for material damages as well as a monthly pension of €3,000 as well as a promise that the state of Hesse will pay for future costs.

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