Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) save lives and should be in every large place of public assembly including big box stores.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Target
Mary Ann Verdugo was shopping in a Target store in Pico Rivera, California when she experienced sudden cardiac arrest. Even though Target sold AEDs on its website, the Pico Rivera store did not have one. I bet it does now. Verdugo died.
Her family sued in federal court claiming Target should have had an AED on-site. The federal Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the California Supreme Court was “better positioned” to address the question, so it referred the case to our Supreme Court. (We wrote about this case two years ago.)
Under California law there is a “special relationship” between business owners and their invitees, which creates a duty to provide “assistance to . . . customers who become ill or need medical attention.” Does that duty require Target to maintain an AED in the store even though there is no California law expressly requiring an AED?
The California Supreme Court answered the federal court’s question in the negative. Accordingly the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled against Verdugo and in favor of Target. No AED required in California. Good practice, but not legally required.
By the way, property owners who have AEDs are immune from liability if an AED is checked every 30 days and at least one employee is trained in its use. Voluntary users of AEDs are immune.
One of the federal judges wrote separately that he believed Target had a moral obligation to make AEDs available. He encouraged the California Legislature to consider a law requiring big box stores to make life-saving AEDs available on-site.
Oregon has such a law – applicable to places of public assembly– meaning a single building with at least 50,000 square feet where at least 50 individuals congregate.
About 360,000 Americans are treated annually by emergency medical services for sudden cardiac arrest before reaching a hospital. About eight percent survive.
When AEDs are used within three to five minutes from the onset of collapse, the survival rate of a sudden cardiac arrest victim is as high as 50 to 70 percent.
The cost of an AED is around $1,200. A small price for the potential life-saving benefit.
When you’re next visiting a large business or anyplace where large groups gather, look around for an AED, and if you do not see one, ask the owner or manager to consider purchasing an AED.
I was trained to use an AED during a CPR class. I would not be afraid to use one despite my lack of experience and candid lack of confidence to operate it, as it has audio step-by-step instructions and is designed to be nearly foolproof — even without training.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.portersimon.com.
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