WARNING – Schools and Colleges Better Buy Narcan; Ignoring the Epidemic Could Lead to Wrongful Death Liability
Schools And Colleges Should Buy Narcan
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 30, 2023) – The FDA’s approval of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan [Naloxone] as an over-the-counter [OTC] nasal spray, which can be purchased and administered by anyone without a prescription, should come with a warning for schools and colleges: “WARNING – Failure To Have Narcan Can Lead to Wrongful Death Legal Liability.”
So warns public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has been called a "Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars," and "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," and a "King of Class Action Lawsuits."
It's now very well established that schools and colleges have a legal duty to take reasonable care to protect their students from all reasonably foreseeable risks and harms.
On this basis, legal liability has been imposed for student suicides, murder and rape by fellow students, deaths or even injuries caused by hazing, and even for failing to render aid to a student temporarily helpless and therefore in danger from the excessive use of alcohol, fainting including diabetic shock, and of course from illegal drugs.
With nothing short of an epidemic of drug deaths among high school and college students from drugs and (often accidental) overdoses, schools and universities have a duty to foresee that a young person may overdose; in some cases inadvertently because of fentanyl.
Up until now, the duty to take reasonable care of such a now-clearly-foreseeable risk was usually satisfied by being sure that the victim was promptly transported to a hospital or other suitable medical facility, or at least calling an ambulance. EMS providers may, in some situations, administer Narcan to a drug-overdose victim.
But now, since the few minutes it takes to call an ambulance and to have it arrive can literally mean the difference between life and death (or irreversible brain damage and other long term harm) from a drug overdose, and Narcan is readily available and can safely be administered even by people with no medical training, nothing short of having it readily available and of providing it very promptly should satisfy the legal duty to take reasonable care.
If death results from a failure to immediately administer Narcan, families are likely to file a wrongful death action to recover damages; and a jury will see a sympathetic tearful family talking about a wonderful talented son or daughter at one table, and a representative of a school or college too cheap to buy even a few Narcan sprays sitting at the other.
"Reasonable care," as the law uses that term, means care which is "reasonable" in terms of expense, ease of administration, lack of risk or other countervailing considerations, etc., explains the law professor, so it's important to have Narcan readily available on campus.
While it probably isn't necessary, to satisfy the reasonable care requirement, for every single teacher and/or classroom to have Narcan, it probably should be carried by every member of the campus police; and especially in campus police vehicles where there's far more space, and where other emergency implements (e.g., fire extinguishers, rescue blankets, Halligan entry tools, etc.) are typically carried.
It would probably also be wise to have Narcan available in at least one administrator's office or other appropriate room in every building, and to have signs posted noting its location; signs similar to those which now indicate the location of the nearest AED (Automated External Defibrillator used for sudden cardiac arrests), argues Banzhaf.
It probably should also be readily available in other places where students might congregate and/or shoot up, including dormitories, dining halls, gymnasiums and other workout facilities, libraries, etc.
Since sudden cardiac arrest is very rare among school- and college aged students, it might be even more important to have a sufficient number of Narcan sprays readily available than the AEDs which are so often found in educational institutions, says Banzhaf.
Lawyers who specialize in suing schools and universities are probably waiting breathlessly for the first death which could have been prevented by the prompt administration of Narcan which simply wasn't available, the law professor suggests.
So he is warning universities, including his own, not to delay in acquiring a sufficient number of Narcan sprays to save lives and limit possible legal liability.