The Supreme Court of California recently ruled that Target Corporation is not legally required to provide defibrillators at its stores. Target was sued by the relatives of a California woman who died of a heart attack at the Pico Rivera Target Store.
On August 31, 2008, Mary Ann Verdugo suffered a heart attack while shopping at the Pico Rivera Target with her mother and brother. It took paramedics several minutes to arrive and locate the 49-year-old woman in the store, and they were unable to revive her.
Verdugo’s family sued Target, alleging that the company was negligent in failing to carry an automatic external defibrillator (AED) in its store.
The family noted that cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States and that the cost of maintaining an AED in Target stores was relatively minor.
California has several laws relating to the purchase and use of AED’s by businesses. Currently, gyms and fitness clubs are the only nonmedical companies required to provide AEDs for their patrons.
The California Supreme Court found that although the California Health and Safety Code does not preclude a common law duty for a retailer to provide an AED, Target did not pose any unique heart attack risk to its customers to create such a duty.
“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,” the justices wrote.
The court also noted that the costs associated with installing and maintaining an AED could pose a significant burden on other businesses.