Businesses don’t have to have AEDs for their customers
June 23, 2014
• Supreme Court rules in lawsuit against Target
• “The business’s common law duty does not impose such an obligation”
Try not to have a heart attack while shopping at Target – or any other store in California. The store might not have an automatic external defibrillator -- and the California Supreme Court says it doesn’t have to.
“We conclude that, under California law, Target’s common law duty of care to its customers does not include a duty to acquire and make available an AED for use in a medical emergency,” California’s highest state court says Monday.
The ruling stems from an incident in August 2008 in Pico Rivera when a customer, Mary Ann Verdugo, 49, suffered a heart attack.
It took paramedics from a nearby fire station several minutes to get to the scene and by then, she was dead. The store did not have an AED.
Ms. Verdugo’s mother and brother ultimately sued Target, maintaining that the retailer breached the duty of care that it owed to customers by failing to have on hand within its department store an AED for use in a medical emergency. The lawsuit noted that Target itself sold AEDs over the Internet for approximately $1,200.
State law requires AEDs in state buildings and some private businesses, but it’s not all-encompassing.
“All the parties in this case agree that, under California law, Target has a common law duty to provide at least some assistance to a patron who suffers a sudden cardiac arrest while shopping at a Target store. The parties sharply disagree, however, as to the scope of that duty,” says the Supreme Court. “Target maintains that its employees fully satisfied its common law duty of reasonable care by immediately summoning emergency medical personnel upon learning of the patron’s collapse, and that at most it might be required to provide simple first aid measures but that it had no duty to acquire an AED in advance of the incident for potential use in the event of such a medical emergency.”
The court notes that of the 50 states, only Oregon requires AEDs to be on hand in stores of 50,000 square feet or larger, which would include the typical Target store.
It also notes that “to date every state appellate court that has confronted the legal question that is before us in this case — namely, whether a business’s common law duty to assist patrons who become ill on the business’s premises includes a duty to acquire and make available an AED — has concluded that the business’s common law duty does not impose such an obligation.”