California Supreme Court Looks at Defibrillator Requirements for Businesses

California High Court Considers Whether Businesses Must Have Defibrillators

Factory floorThe retailer Target has been named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, stemming from the death of a shopper who died of a heart attack while at a Target store in California. The deceased’s family alleged that Target was negligent because, although it sold defibrillators to the public in its store, it did not have any available for use by the public. The case was originally filed in state court in California, but Target had the case removed to federal court. The federal district court found that Target had no duty to provide a defibrillator for use by shoppers, but the federal appellate court sent the case to California’s Supreme Court, concluding that there was no legal precedent either way, and asking the high court to establish a precedent.

In the California case, the mother and brother of Mary Ann Verdugo sued Target after she collapsed and died of a heart attack while at a Target store in Pico Rivera. Target officials had called 911 and paramedics attempted to revive Ms. Verdugo, but she had died before they arrived.

There are currently no statutes in California that require business owners to have Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) available for use by the public, or to provide persons trained in the use of such devices. The only laws governing the use or availability of AEDs on business premises govern the installation and use of businesses that choose to have them on their property, limiting liability to instances of willful, wanton or gross negligence.

Legal experts say that, in order to find such a duty, the court must conclude that it would be reasonable to expect that a shopper might have a heart attack while on the premises. Business advocates fear that a decision establishing such a duty would open the door for other types of lawsuits.

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