The California Supreme Court has found that a commercial property owner’s common law duty of care to its customers does not include a duty to have emergency medical equipment on the premises for use in an emergency.
In Verdugo v. Target Corporation, (2014 S.O.S. 10-57008), Mary Ann Verdugo was shopping at Target store in Pico Rivera, California, when she suffered sudden cardiac arrest. Target employees called 911, but attempts by paramedics to resuscitate her failed and she died. Verdugo’s family sued, claiming that Target, as a commercial property owner, had a common law duty to have an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on the premises for use in a medical emergency.
A district court dismissed the claim on the grounds that Target had no such duty. The Verdugos appealed, and a court of appeals certified the following question to the California Supreme Court:
In what circumstances, if ever, does the common law duty of a commercial property owner to provide emergency first aid to invitees require the availability of an AED for cases of sudden cardiac arrest?
In its ruling, the California Supreme Court held that Target’s duty of care under common law did not include a duty to have an AED in its stores for use in a medical emergency. The appellate court then affirmed the district court’s judgment of dismissal.
Separately, District Court Judge Harry Pregerson wrote that the California legislature should consider enacting legislation that would require large retail stores to have an AED onsite. Until such a law is passed, he expressed the hope that retailers would “recognize their moral obligation to make AEDs available for use in a medical emergency.”
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