California Supreme Court: Target Had No Duty to Provide AEDs in Stores

Only one state, Oregon, has a statute requiring large stores to have AEDs on the premises, the unanimous court held June 23.

Target Corporation is not required to have automated external defibrillators at the ready in its California stores, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously June 23. The decision, which held that Target’s common law duty of care to its customers does not encompass AEDs, came to the state's highest court as a request from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked to California Supreme Court to rule because the 9th Circuit concluded California precedents did not provide sufficient guidance to answer the question.

The case is Michael Verdugo, et al. v. Target Corporation, No. S207313. It was filed by the mother and brother of Mary Ann Verdugo, 49, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest while shopping with them Aug. 21, 2008, in a Target store in Pico Rivera, Calif. Paramedics responded to a 911 call but were unable to revive Verdugo, according to the decision.

The plaintiffs contended Target's failure to maintain AEDs in its stores was a substantial cause of her death, and their complaint noted Target offered AEDs for sale online for about $1,200. Their complaint argued that the "inexpensive availability of AEDs and their ease of use with even minimal or no advance training have led to on-site CPR and AED assistance to now be an expected part of first aid response," according to the decision.

Only one state, Oregon, has a statute requiring large stores to have AEDs on the premises, the court held. The decision discusses good samaritan laws and notes that California has a statute on its books requiring health or fitness studios to maintain AEDs. Up to now, every state appellate court that has confronted this legal question has ruled that the business's common law duty does not require that it have AEDs in place in its stores, Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the majority opinion. Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote a separate concurring opinion.

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