Large retail stores in California are not legally required to have automated external defibrillators for customers in case of medical emergencies, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday.
In a ruling written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the state’s highest court said California law requires only that “health studios” have such potentially life-saving devices and encourages most public buildings to have them.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the family of Mary Ann Verdugo, 49, who suffered a fatal heart attack in 2008 while shopping at a Target store in Pico Rivera. Paramedics were summoned, but by the time they reached Verdugo, she could not be revived.
Verdugo’s family argued that Target should have had a defibrillator, an electronic device that gives an electrical shock to the heart. According to the American Heart Assn., a victim’s chance of survival drops by 7% to 10% for each minute that passes without defibrillation.
“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 chief justice wrote.
A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit again Target, and Verdugo's family appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A 9th Circuit panel, weighing whether to revive the suit, asked the California Supreme Court whether state law imposed a duty on businesses to keep defibrillators.
The case will now return to the 9th Circuit.
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