California's top court says Target not required to carry in-store defibrillators

SACRAMENTO Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:19am EDT

A Target sign is pictured next to one of their stores in Vista, California April 16, 2014.   REUTERS/Mike Blake

A Target sign is pictured next to one of their stores in Vista, California April 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - California's top court on Monday unanimously ruled that large retailers are not required to provide automated external defibrillators (AEDs) inside their stores, deciding in favor of Target Corp in a wrongful death lawsuit brought after a shopper's sudden death.

The Supreme Court in California dismissed the argument that the U.S. retailer fell under a state health code statute that requires gyms and other "health studios" to make available the life-saving machines.

"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," the six-judge panel wrote in an opinion on Monday.

The court's decision was a defeat for the mother and brother of 49-year-old Mary Ann Verdugo, who died of a sudden heart attack while shopping with her at a Target store in 2008 Pico Rivera, California, a city near Los Angeles.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged the company violated a common law duty to provide first aid to the large volume of customers that frequent its California stores daily, noting that AEDs retail on its website for $1,200.

"The inexpensive availability of AEDs and their ease of use with even minimal or no advance training have led to on-site CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED assistance to now be an expected part of first aid response," the Verdugo's complaint said.

The California Supreme Court upheld decisions by a U.S appeals court and lower courts that all ruled against the Verdugo family.

"The safety and security of our guests and team members is our top priority and we are pleased with the California Supreme Court decision," Target said in a statement.

(Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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Comments (8)
MonitorLizard wrote:
Oh please. Walmart is not a “gym” or “health studio.” The California courts are right. Next, the public will want fully-equipped emergency rooms in stores. Walmart may want to afford itself some protection from lawsuits such as this one by ditching “clinics” from all of its stores. This may be a “stretch” but most people know how to dial 9-1-1 and do CPR. I feel for the family, but launching anger-laden lawsuits via money-hungry lawyers will not bring your loved one back.

Jun 24, 2014 7:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
monkeylips wrote:
Okay, I understand that the law doesn’t require AED’s to be available in grocery stores or department stores, but for the love of god, in this day and age of technology and as in-expensive as they are, why wouldn’t you put one up in the front and one in the rear of the store. I’ve seen these things save lives, simple, safe and easy to use.

Jun 24, 2014 8:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BeRealistic wrote:
I sympathize with the family’s loss, but this is a good decision by the court. It is quite possible that Target will put these in stores to avoid this in th future, but to seek damages for not having them in the past is wrong.

Jun 24, 2014 10:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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