California Supreme Declines to Impose AED Duty

On June 23, 2014, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Verdugo v. Target Corp., 704 F.3d 1044 (2012) and answered the Ninth Circuit’s certified question: “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 Automatic External Defibrillator (‘AED’) for cases of sudden cardiac arrest?”

The Court concluded that past California decisions do not support a common law duty where businesses are obligated to acquire and maintain AEDs on their premises and therefore business’s (like Target’s) duty of care towards its customers did not include a duty to acquire and make available an AED for use in medical emergencies. The Court also recognized that the legislature is better equipped to determine when, if ever, AEDs should be required on business premises.

This certainly is welcome news for businesses. I previously wrote about the implications of this decision on businesses here and here. In light of this decision, businesses who are able to afford it, may want to maintain AEDs on their premises in order to take advantage of the immunity from civil liability provided for in Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1797.196; Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.21(d). Moreover, as I previously discussed, acquiring and maintaining AEDs on site would save lives and decrease the likelihood of wrongful death actions. This may benefit many businesses in the long run.