Lifeline AutoAlert is a personal-safety device intended to save the lives of elderly folks who have fallen or slipped.
However, one allegedly defective device may have cost a Hillsborough County woman her life.
Rosemary Blair, 83, died Nov. 22, 2014 in her Lutz RV home. Her son, Land O’Lakes resident Steven Blair, found her on the floor about 24 hours after the fall. He immediately rushed her to St. Joseph’s Hospital North on 4211 Van Dyke Road in Lutz, where she died from pneumonia and other complications caused by the fall.
Blair is suing Dutch conglomerate Philips Electronics, Lifeline’s creator, on behalf of his mother.
Blair is claiming he is suffering from the loss of his mother’s support, companionship and protection, and he and the Estate of Rosemary Blair have incurred both medical and funeral expenses.
Philips markets its Lifeline products to the elderly and their families. Although the system is promoted as being able to detect more than 95 percent of falls, Lifeline may not detect gradual slides from a seated position.
According to the suit, Rosemary’s Lifeline Communicator failed to operate. After his mother’s passing, Blair says he tested the device. It failed to either detect any falls or notify Phillips.
Typically, a device is activated by detecting a fall or when the owner pushes its button. At that point, the communicator is supposed to connect the fallen person to Philips’ response center.
A team member contacts the person to assess the situation and determine if they should call family or emergency medical services.
In the suit, filed Nov. 17, 2016, Blair is accusing Philips of three counts: liability, negligence and violation of Florida law.
Blair claims Philips was negligent by misrepresenting the abilities of the communicator, failing to put safeguards in place to determine when a communicator stops working, and by failing to ensure devices can detect serious falls.
At the time the complaint was filed, Rosemary’s estate was opened and pending approval.
“Philips claims to be the No. 1 medical alert service in the United States,” the suit says. “The AutoAlert Help Button detects greater than 95 percent of many types of falls, based on the number of undetected falls reported to Philips Lifeline by U.S. AutoAlert subscribers from January 2012 through July 2012.”
But another page on the Philips website notes: “AutoAlert does not detect 100 percent of falls. If able, users should always push their button when they need help.”