Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that large retailers such as Target have no legal obligation to keep defibrillators on hand for customers stricken by heart attacks or other medical emergencies. This decision came as a result of a lawsuit brought on behalf of a Southern California family against Target after a woman collapsed in one of their stores back in 2008. She died before paramedics arrived.
In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court concluded that it was up to the legislature, not the courts, to create a legal requirement for large retailers to provide defibrillators. In the unanimous decision, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote, “It is appropriate to leave to the Legislature the policy decision about whether a business entity should be required to acquire and make available (a defibrillator) for the protection of its patrons.”
This is good news for all retailers in the state. Requiring businesses to have defibrillators on hand and train their employees to use them in case of emergency would undoubtedly open the door to an unending stream of questionable lawsuits against businesses in California.
I know firsthand how vital it can be to have a defibrillator on hand. I have witnessed a gentleman have a heart attack and collapse on a tennis court. Although he unfortunately did not survive, the presence of a defibrillator nearby offered him a greater chance at life than he would have otherwise had.
I think that issue comes down to a smart business decision. Small businesses obviously cannot afford the expense of purchasing defibrillators and training employees in how to use them. At the same time, I would hope large retailers use their resources to have defibrillators and trained employees onsite. Businesses that choose to do so should be granted some sort of Good Samaritan status where they cannot be held civilly and criminally liable, but requiring them by law to do so would be undoubtedly encourage more abusive litigation. The Supreme Court deserves credit for its wise decision in this case, and retailers across the state should thank the court.