Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 59 Cal. 4th 312; 173 Cal. Rptr. 3d 662; 327 P.3d 774; 2014 Daily Journal D.A.R. 8060

Verdugo v. Target Corp.

Filed 6/23/14



IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA



MICHAEL VERDUGO et al.,

Plaintiffs and Appellants,

S207313

v.

Ninth Cir. U.S. Ct. App.

) No. 10-57008
TARGET CORPORATION,

U.S. Dist. Ct.

Defendant and Respondent.

No. 2:10-cv-06930-ODW-AJW



At the request of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the

Ninth Circuit, we agreed to address a question of state law that is potentially

determinative of an appeal now pending before that federal appellate court. (Cal. Rules

of Court, rule 8.548.) The question, as reformulated and narrowed to conform to the facts

of the pending appeal, is whether, under California law, the common law duty of

reasonable care that defendant Target Corporation (Target) owes to its business

customers includes an obligation to obtain and make available on its business premises an

automated (or automatic) external defibrillator (AED) for use in a medical emergency.1

1

The question of state law, as submitted by the Ninth Circuit panel, was phrased in

broader terms, asking: “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?” (Verdugo v. Target Corp. (9th Cir. 2012) 704 F.3d 1044, 1045.) Because we do
not resolve abstract questions of law but rather address only issues that “are presented on
a factual record” (Los Angeles Alliance for Survival v. City of Los Angeles (2000) 22


(footnote continued on next page)



Target maintains that recognition of a common law duty on its part to acquire and

make available an AED for the use of its customers is inappropriate for two reasons.

First, Target asserts that existing California statutes relating to the acquisition and use of

AEDs preclude recognition of such a common law duty, either because one of the

statutory provisions explicitly bars such a requirement or because the AED statutes as a

whole “occupy the field” of AED regulation and thus implicitly foreclose California

courts from recognizing such a common law duty. Second, Target argues that even if

existing California AED statutes do not prohibit recognition of such a common law duty,

generally applicable principles relating to the scope of a business‟s common law duty to

its customers, set forth in governing California decisions, do not support recognition of

such a duty.

For the reasons discussed hereafter, we conclude that existing California statutes

relating to the acquisition and use of AEDs do not preclude this court from determining

whether such a duty should be recognized under California common law, but that

generally applicable principles and limitations regarding the existence of a common law

duty that are embodied in past California decisions do not support recognition of such a

common law duty. Accordingly, 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.


(footnote continued from previous page)

Cal.4th 352, 362), we have restated the issue to conform to the facts at issue in the
underlying action. (See Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.548(f)(5) [“At any time, the Supreme
Court may restate the question . . .”].) The Ninth Circuit panel itself emphasized that its
phrasing of the question was “not meant to restrict the California Supreme Court‟s
consideration of the issue involved.” (Verdugo v. Target Corp., supra, at p. 1045.)

2

I. Summary of Facts and Federal Court Proceedings

On August 31, 2008, Mary Ann Verdugo was shopping at a large Target

department store in Pico Rivera, California, with her mother and brother when she

suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed. In response to a 911 call, paramedics

were dispatched from a nearby fire station. It took the paramedics several minutes to

reach the store and a few additional minutes to reach Verdugo inside the store. The

paramedics attempted to revive Verdugo but were unable to do so; Verdugo was 49 years

of age at the time of her death. Target did not have an AED in its store.

After the incident, Verdugo‟s mother and brother (hereafter plaintiffs) filed the

underlying lawsuit against Target, maintaining that Target breached the duty of care that

it owed to Verdugo, a business customer, by failing to have on hand within its department

store an AED for use in a medical emergency. Plaintiffs‟ first amended complaint

alleged that an AED was an essential element of the life-saving first aid that Target was

assertedly obligated to provide to its patrons. The complaint contended that in view of

the large number of persons (300,000) in this country who suffer an unanticipated sudden

cardiac arrest each year, and the large number of customers who shop in Target‟s

department stores, it was reasonably foreseeable that a patron might suffer such an attack

in its store, and that because of the size of the store Target should have known that it

would take emergency medical personnel many minutes to reach a sudden cardiac arrest

victim, making an onsite AED a medical necessity. Further, the complaint noted that

AEDs are relatively inexpensive and that, in fact, Target itself sold AEDs over the

Internet for approximately $1,200. The complaint maintained that “[t]he 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.” Asserting that Target‟s failure to provide an AED

was a substantial cause of Verdugo‟s death, plaintiffs sought to recover damages from

Target.

3

Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint in the Los Angeles County Superior Court,

but Target removed the proceeding to federal district court. Thereafter, Target filed a

motion to dismiss the matter on the ground that the complaint failed to state a cause of

action. (Fed. Rules Civ. Proc., rule 12(b)(6), 28 U.S.C.) After briefing, the federal

district court granted Target‟s motion, concluding that Target had no duty to acquire and

make available an AED for the use of its customers. Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth

Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the federal appellate court should recognize that a

duty to provide an AED does exist under California common law, or, in the alternative,

asking that court to certify to this court the question of state law regarding the existence

of such a duty under California common law. Target opposed certification, but, after oral

argument, the three-judge panel, by a two-to-one vote, determined that California

precedents do not provide sufficient guidance to answer the question of California tort

law presented by the case and asked this court to address the issue. (Verdugo v. Target

Corp., supra, 704 F.3d at p. 1045.)2

In response to the Ninth Circuit‟s request, we agreed to address the state law issue

presented by the pending appeal. We have received extensive briefing in this matter,

both by the parties and by numerous amici curiae, some supporting plaintiffs and others

supporting defendant Target.

2

The majority opinion of the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel, certifying the

question of state law to this court, was authored by Judge Berzon and concurred in by
Judge Graber. Judge Pregerson dissented, concluding that “the California common law
duty for a business to provide emergency first aid to its invitees requires the availability
of an AED for cases of sudden cardiac arrest.” (Verdugo v. Target Corp., supra, 704
F.3d at p. 1053 (dis. opn. of Pregerson, J.).) The dissent would have reversed the district
court‟s dismissal of the action and remanded the matter for further proceedings. (Ibid.)
Judge Graber filed a separate concurring opinion, noting that in the absence of this
court‟s guidance on the issue she would disagree with the dissenting judge‟s view, but
that “because reasonable minds differ about the state law that we must apply, certification
is particularly appropriate here.” (Id. at p. 1051 (conc. opn. of Graber, J.).)

4

II. Brief Overview of Sudden Cardiac Arrest and AEDs

To place the issue before us in perspective, it is useful at the outset to briefly

describe the nature and scope of the health problem posed by sudden cardiac arrest and

the development of AEDs as one important tool for addressing this problem. Thereafter,

we describe the current California statutes relating to AEDs. (Post, pt. III.)

In a 2013 publication, the American Heart Association stated that “Cardiac arrest

is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, emergency medical services

(EMS) treats about 360,000 victims of cardiac arrest before they reach the hospital. Less

than 10 percent of those victims survive. Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any

time. . . .” (Amer. Heart Assn., Implementing an AED Program (July 2013) p. 3

[corporate training] <http://www.heart.org/cpr> [as of OPN FILE DATE].) The

publication explained: “Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who

may or may not have heart disease. The time and mode of death are unexpected. Cardiac

arrest occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear. [¶] Most cardiac arrests are due

to abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias. A common arrhythmia is ventricular

fibrillation, in which the heart‟s electrical impulses suddenly become chaotic and

ineffective. Blood flow to the brain stops abruptly; the victim then collapses and quickly

loses consciousness. Death usually follows unless a normal heart rhythm is restored

within minutes.” (Ibid.)

The publication further explained: “Defibrillation is a process in which an

electronic device gives an electrical shock to the heart. Defibrillation stops ventricular

fibrillation by using an electrical shock and allows the return of a normal heart rhythm.

A victim‟s chance of survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent for every minute that passes

without defibrillation.” (Amer. Heart Assn., Implementing an AED Program, supra, at

p. 4.)

Beginning in the 1990s, small portable defibrillators, called automated or

automatic external defibrillators, became commercially available. As described in

5

another American Heart Association publication, “AEDs are highly accurate, user-

friendly computerized devices with voice and audio prompts that guide the user through

the critical steps of operation. AEDs were designed for use by lay rescuers and first

responders to reduce time to defibrillation for victims of [ventricular fibrillation] sudden

cardiac arrest. The rescuer turns the AED on and attaches it to the victim with adhesive

electrodes or pads. The AED records and analyzes the victim‟s cardiac rhythm. If a

shock is indicated, the AED charges to the appropriate energy level and prompts the

rescuer to deliver a shock. If the device is fully automated and a shock is indicated, the

AED can deliver a shock without further action by the rescuer.” (Amer. Heart Assn.,

Community Lay Rescuer Automated External Defibrillation Programs (2006) 113

Circulation 1260, 1261, fn. omitted (Community AED Programs)

<http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/113/9/1260.full> [as of OPN FILE DATE].)3


3

This article further explains: “Although AEDs are user friendly and the steps in

their operation are often intuitively obvious, the effectiveness of an AED for cardiac
arrest requires more than simple operation. The rescuer must know when to use an AED
(i.e., recognize cardiac arrest), how to operate it, how to troubleshoot it (e.g., a hairy or
sweaty chest may prevent good contact between the skin and electrode pads), and how to
combine AED use with CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation]. [¶] CPR remains a critical
component of a successful AED program for several reasons. First, the rescuer must
recognize sudden cardiac arrest (i.e., the victim is unresponsive and not breathing).
Because immediate bystander CPR improves survival from [ventricular fibrillation]
sudden cardiac arrest, the rescuer should be able to perform CPR until the AED is
available and after a shock ends [ventricular fibrillation]. . . . The efficient integration of
CPR with AED use requires training and frequent practice. . . . [¶] . . . [¶] [Second, i]t
is important to note that few victims with [ventricular fibrillation] cardiac arrest
demonstrate an organized rhythm at 60 seconds after elimination of [ventricular
fibrillation] by shock. Many demonstrate pulseless electrical activity in the first minutes
after successful defibrillation. The victim of [ventricular fibrillation] cardiac arrest
requires CPR until the heart is able to pump blood effectively.” (Community AED
Programs
, supra, 113 Circulation at pp. 1265-1266, fns. omitted.)

6

In the mid-1990s, the American Heart Association began a national public health

initiative to educate the public and lawmakers regarding the significant problem posed by

sudden cardiac arrest and to promote increased acquisition and use of AEDs by

nonmedical entities. The initiative included the drafting of model so-called Good

Samaritan AED legislation that would grant legal immunity under specified

circumstances to nonmedical entities and individuals who acquired, made available, or

used AEDs for emergency care. The American Heart Association AED initiative proved

very successful. Between 1995 and 2000, all 50 states passed laws and regulations

related to lay rescuer AED programs. (Community AED Programs, supra, 113

Circulation at p. 1261.) Since 2000, most states have revisited their initial AED statutes

and regulations, seeking to continue to reduce legal impediments to the voluntary

acquisition and use of AEDs and, in some instances, mandating the provision of AEDs in

specified settings. (See Nat. Conf. of State Legislatures, State Laws on Cardiac Arrest

and Defibrillators (Jan. 2013) [listing state laws] <http://www.ncsl.org/issues-

research/health/laws-on-cardiac-arrest-and-defibrillators-aeds.aspx> [as of OPN FILE

DATE].)

III. Current California AED Statutes

A. General California AED statutes — Civil Code section 1714.21 and Health


and Safety Code section 1797.196

The initial California statutory provisions relating specifically to the use of AEDs

in nonmedical settings were enacted in 1999, in apparent response to the American Heart

Association‟s nationwide campaign. The 1999 legislation added two statutory provisions

relating to AEDs — Civil Code section 1714.21 and Health and Safety Code section

1797.196. (Stats. 1999, ch. 163, §§ 1-3, pp. 2069-2070.) These two statutes have been

amended several times since 1999 and continue to constitute the primary, generally

applicable California statutes relating to AEDs.

7

Civil Code section 1714.21 is one of a number of California Good Samaritan

statutes that, in order to encourage individuals or entities to gratuitously undertake

conduct or activities for the benefit of others, grant immunity from potential civil liability

under specified circumstances.4 Civil Code section 1714.21 currently provides

immunity, under specified circumstances, to (1) persons who render emergency care or

treatment by use of an AED, and (2) persons and entities that acquire an AED for

emergency use. With respect to the first category — individuals who use an AED to

render emergency care — section 1714.21, subdivision (b), currently provides broadly

that “[a]ny person who, in good faith and not for compensation, renders emergency care

or treatment by the use of an AED at the scene of an emergency is not liable for any civil

damages resulting from any acts or omissions in rendering the emergency care.”5 With

respect to the second category — individuals or entities that acquire an AED for

emergency use — section 1714.21, subdivision (d), provides more narrowly that “[a]

person or entity that acquires an AED for emergency use pursuant to this section is not

liable for any civil damages resulting from any acts or omissions in the rendering of the

emergency care by use of an AED, if that person or entity has complied with subdivision

(b) of Section 1797.196 of the Health and Safety Code.” (Italics added; see also Civ.


4

Other Good Samaritan statutes include Civil Code sections 1714.2 (use of CPR),

1714.22 (use of opiate overdose treatment), and 1714.25 (donations of food to nonprofit
charities).

5

As originally enacted in 1999, Civil Code section 1714.21, subdivision (b) granted

immunity to a person who rendered emergency care by use of an AED only if the person
had completed a basic CPR and AED use course that complied with state regulations and
with the standards of the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross. (Stats.
1999, ch. 163, § 2, p. 2069.) The immunity for users of an AED was broadened to its
current state by a 2002 amendment. (Stats. 2002, ch. 718, § 1, p. 4233.)

8

Code, § 1714.21, subd. (e) [providing similarly limited immunity to “any person or entity

responsible for the site where an AED is located”].)6

Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (b), in turn, sets forth a

substantial number of requirements that a person or entity that acquires an AED must

comply with in order to be eligible for the immunity from civil liability afforded by Civil

Code section 1714.21. Among other prerequisites, section 1797.196, subdivision (b),

requires a person or entity that acquires an AED to (1) comply with all regulations

governing the placement of an AED, (2) ensure that the AED is maintained and regularly

tested, (3) check the AED for readiness after each use and at least once every 30 days,

(4) ensure that any person who uses an AED alerts emergency medical services (EMS) as

soon as possible, (5) provide AED training for at least one employee for every AED unit

acquired (up to five AED units) and have a trained employee available during normal

operating hours to respond to an emergency involving the use of an AED, (6) prepare a

written plan of steps to be taken in the event of an emergency involving the use of an

AED, (7) ensure that tenants in a building in which an AED is located annually receive a

brochure describing the proper use of an AED and post similar information next to any

installed AED, and (8) notify tenants at least once a year of the location of AED units in

the building.7 Only if an acquirer of an AED satisfies all these conditions does the

6

Other subdivisions of Civil Code section 1714.21 grant immunity to persons or

entities who provide CPR and AED training (Civ. Code, § 1714.21, subd. (c)) and to
physicians who are involved with the placement of an AED (id., § 1714.21, subd. (e)),
negate immunity if injury or death results from “gross negligence or willful or wanton
misconduct” of the person using the AED (id., § 1714.21, subd. (f)), and specify that
nothing in section 1714.21 relieves “a manufacturer, designer, developer, distributor,
installer, or supplier of an AED” of any liability “under any applicable statute or rule of
law.” (Id., § 1714.21, subd. (g)).

7

Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (b) currently provides in

full: “In order to ensure public safety, any person or entity that acquires an AED is not
liable for any civil damages resulting from any acts or omissions in the rendering of the


(footnote continued on next page)

9


(footnote continued from previous page)

emergency care under subdivision (b) of Section 1714.21 of the Civil Code, if that person
or entity does all of the following:


“(1) Complies with all regulations governing the placement of an AED.

“(2) Ensures all of the following:

“(A) That the AED is maintained and regularly tested according to the operation

and maintenance guidelines set forth by the manufacturer, the American Heart
Association, and the American Red Cross, and according to any applicable rules and
regulations set forth by the governmental authority under the federal Food and Drug
Administration and any other applicable state and federal authority.


“(B) That the AED is checked for readiness after each use and at least once every

30 days if the AED has not been used in the preceding 30 days. Records of these checks
shall be maintained.


“(C) That any person who renders emergency care or treatment on a person in

cardiac arrest by using an AED activates the emergency medical services system as soon
as possible, and reports any use of the AED to the licensed physician and to the local
EMS agency.


“(D) For every AED unit acquired up to five units, no less than one employee per

AED unit shall complete a training course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED use
that complies with the regulations adopted by the Emergency Medical Service Authority
and the standards of the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross. After
the first five AED units are acquired, for each additional five AED units acquired, one
employee shall be trained beginning with the first AED unit acquired. Acquirers of AED
units shall have trained employees who should be available to respond to an emergency
that may involve the use of an AED unit during normal operating hours.


“(E) That there is a written plan that describes the procedures to be followed in the

event of an emergency that may involve the use of an AED, to ensure compliance with
the requirements of this section. The written plan shall include, but not be limited to,
immediate notification of 911 and trained office personnel at the start of AED
procedures.


“(3) When an AED is placed in a building, building owners shall ensure that

tenants annually receive a brochure, approved as to content and style by the American
Heart Association or American Red Cross, which describes the proper use of an AED,
and also ensure that similar information is posted next to any installed AED.


“(4) When an AED is placed in a building, no less than once a year, building

owners shall notify their tenants as to the location of AED units in the building.


“(5) When an AED is placed in a public or private K-12 school, the principal shall

ensure that the school administrators and staff annually receive a brochure, approved as
to content and style by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross, that
describes the proper use of an AED. The principal shall also ensure that similar


(footnote continued on next page)

10

acquirer qualify for the immunity from civil liability afforded by Civil Code section

1714.21.

In addition to setting forth the requirements that an acquirer of an AED must

satisfy in order to obtain immunity from liability under Civil Code section 1714.21,

Health and Safety Code section 1797.196 contains a separate subdivision — subdivision

(f) — upon which defendant Target heavily relies in this case in maintaining that courts

are precluded from determining whether California common law imposes upon Target a

duty to acquire and make available an AED for use in a medical emergency. Section

1797.196, subdivision (f), provides in full: “Nothing in this section or Section 1714.21 of

the Civil Code may be construed to require a building owner or a building manager to

acquire and have installed an AED in any building.” We discuss Target‟s legal argument

relating to section 1797.196, subdivision (f), below. (See pt. IV.A., post.)


B. AEDs and health studios — Health and Safety Code section 104113


In addition to the provisions of Civil Code section 1714.21 and Health and Safety

Code section 1797.196 relating generally to the circumstances in which a nonmedical

user or acquirer of an AED is immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from

the use of an AED, California has enacted a specific statute relating to the particular

obligations of health (or fitness) studios regarding AEDs.


(footnote continued from previous page)

information is posted next to every AED. The principal shall, at least annually, notify
school employees as to the location of all AED units on the campus. The principal shall
designate the trained employees who shall be available to respond to an emergency that
may involve the use of an AED during normal operating hours. As used in this
paragraph, „normal operating hours‟ means during the hours of classroom instruction and
any school-sponsored activity occurring on school grounds.”

11

Health and Safety Code section 104113, initially enacted in 2005 (Stats. 2005,

ch. 431, § 1, pp. 3552-3554), requires every “health studio” to acquire and maintain an

AED and to train personnel on the use of AEDs.8 In addition to mandating the

acquisition and maintenance of AEDs in health studios (Health & Saf. Code, § 104113,

subd. (a)), section 104113 grants immunity to health studio employees for the use or

nonuse of an AED for emergency care (id., § 104113, subd. (b)), and grants immunity to

the owners and managers of a health studio so long as the facility complies with a list of

requirements set forth in section 104113, subdivision (e) (id., § 104113, subd. (d)). The

requirements contained in section 104113, subdivision (e), generally parallel the general

prerequisites that all acquirers of AEDs must comply with under Health and Safety Code

section 1797.196, subdivision (b), in order to obtain immunity from civil liability, but

section 104113, subdivision (e), also contains additional requirements applicable to those

health studios that allow members access to the facility during times when the facility

does not have an employee on the premises. (Id., § 104113, subd. (e)(3); see also id.,

§ 104113, subd. (g).)9


8

Health and Safety Code section 104113, subdivision (h), currently defines “health

studio” for purposes of this section as “a facility permitting the use of its facilities and
equipment or access to its facilities and equipment, to individuals or groups for physical
exercise, body building, reducing, figure development, fitness training, or any other
similar purpose, on a membership basis. „Health studio‟ does not include a hotel or
similar business that offers fitness facilities to its registered guests for a fee or as part of
the hotel charges.”

9

Like the immunity provisions of Civil Code section 1714.21, the immunity

provisions of Health and Safety Code section 104113 do not apply in the case of gross
negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. (Health & Saf. Code, § 104113, subd. (f).)

12

Health studios are currently the only nonmedical setting in which California

statutes or regulations require that AEDs be provided.10

C. AEDs in state buildings — Government Code section 8455

In addition to the foregoing statutes, California has enacted a statutory provision

relating to the placement of AEDs in state-owned and state-leased buildings.

Government Code section 8455, enacted in 2004, directs the California

Department of General Services to “apply for federal funds . . . for the purchase of

automated external defibrillators to be located within state-owned and leased buildings”

(§ 8455, subd. (a))11 and also requires the Department of General Services to “develop

and adopt policies and procedures relative to the placement and use of automated external

defibrillators in state-owned and leased buildings and ensure that training is consistent

with Section 1797.196 of the Health and Safety Code and the regulations adopted

pursuant to that section.” (Gov. Code, § 8455, subd. (b).)

Pursuant to this provision, AEDs have been installed in many state-owned and

leased buildings throughout California.


10

Numerous California regulations require a variety of medical facilities to be

equipped with a defibrillator along with other emergency medical equipment and devices.
(See, e.g., Cal. Code Regs., tit. 22, §§ 70227 [surgical services], 70237 [anesthesia
services], 70407 [acute respiratory services], 70417 [emergency medical services], 70457
[comprehensive emergency medical services], 79735 [outpatient surgical care], 79769
[standby emergency services]; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 16, § 1070.8 [training courses for
dental sedation assistants].)

11

The enactment of Government Code section 8455 followed enactment of federal

legislation in 2002 that authorized the United States Secretary of Health and Human
Services to award federal grants to states and localities to develop and implement public
access defibrillation programs, including the purchase of AEDs. The federal legislation
appropriated $25 million for that purpose. (Community Access to Emergency
Defibrillation Act of 2002, Pub.L. 107-188, § 159 (June 12, 2002) 116 Stat. 634 et seq.,
enacting 42 U.S.C. § 244.)

13

IV. Do the Current California Statutes Relating to AEDs Preclude Courts

from Determining Whether Target’s Common Law Duty of Care to Its Business
Patrons Includes an Obligation to Provide an AED For Use in an Emergency?


As already noted, Target argues that current California statutes preclude

recognition of a common law duty to provide an AED on two separate theories: first, that

the statutes explicitly preclude recognition of a common law requirement to provide an

AED, or, alternatively, that the current California statutes should be viewed as entirely

“occupying the field” of AED regulation and thus implicitly preclude such a common law

requirement. We discuss each of these separate theories in turn.


A. Does Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f), explicitly


preclude recognition of a common law requirement to provide an AED?

Target initially contends that the Legislature‟s enactment of Health and Safety

Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f), explicitly precludes recognition of a common law

requirement to provide an AED. As explained, we conclude that the provision does not

support this contention.

Section 1797.196, subdivision (f) currently reads in full: “Nothing in this section

or Section 1714.21 of the Civil Code may be construed to require a building owner or a

building manager to acquire and have installed an AED in any building.”

Although this provision makes it clear that the legislative enactment of Health and

Safety Code section 1797.196 and Civil Code section 1714.21 was not intended, and may

not be construed by California courts, to require a building owner or manager to acquire

and install an AED in any building, the subdivision in question does not purport to

address the separate and distinct question whether, and if so under what circumstances,

California common law may embody a duty to acquire and make available an AED as

part of the general common law duty of care owed by a business establishment to its

patrons or customers. It is well established under California law that a business

establishment‟s legal obligations to its customers and others may arise not only from the

Legislature‟s enactment of a statutory provision but also, alternatively, under the

14

common law. (See, e.g., City of Moorpark v. Superior Court (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143,

1147; Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior Court (1997) 14 Cal.4th 814, 822-

824; Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144, 152-154.) Under the common law,

the existence and scope of an individual‟s or entity‟s common law duty of reasonable

care is dependent upon a variety of circumstances. (See, e.g., Rowland v. Christian

(1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 113.)

Past California decisions recognize that “[a]s a general rule, „[u]nless expressly

provided, statutes should not be interpreted to alter the common law, and should be

construed to avoid conflict with common law rules.‟ ” (California Assn. of Health

Facilities v. Department of Health Services (1997) 16 Cal.4th 284, 297.) “Accordingly,

„[t]here is a presumption that a statute does not, by implication, repeal the common law.

[Citation.] Repeal by implication is recognized only where there is no rational basis for

harmonizing two potentially conflicting laws.‟ ” (Ibid.) Although Health and Safety

Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f), by its terms, establishes that Health and Safety

Code section 1797.196 and Civil Code section 1714.21 themselves should not be

interpreted to require building owners or managers to acquire and make available AEDs

in their buildings (and thus should not be construed to render the failure to acquire an

AED negligence per se pursuant to Evid. Code, § 669), nothing in subdivision (f) states

or suggests that it was intended to preclude courts from applying ordinary common law

principles in determining whether, either in general or under particular circumstances, a

common law duty to provide an AED ought to be recognized.

In other contexts, the Legislature has used much clearer and more explicit

statutory language when it has intended entirely to preclude the imposition of liability

upon an individual or entity under common law principles for acting or for failing to act

in a particular manner. For example, after this court, in Coulter v. Superior Court, supra,

21 Cal.3d 144, concluded that under California common law a social host who serves

alcoholic beverages to an obviously intoxicated person who the host knows intends to

15

drive a motor vehicle may be held liable for injuries to a third person caused by the

intoxicated person, the Legislature enacted Civil Code section 1714, subdivision (c),

which provides: “[N]o social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may

be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the

person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of

those beverages.” Similarly, after this court, in Van Horn v. Watson (2008) 45 Cal.4th

322, interpreted an existing statutory immunity provision as extending immunity only to

a person who renders emergency medical care and as not affecting the potential common

law liability of a person who renders emergency nonmedical care, the Legislature

amended the relevant statute to state explicitly that “No person who in good faith, and not

for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an

emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.”

(Health & Saf. Code, § 1799.102, subd. (a); see, e.g., Civ. Code, § 846 [“[A landowner]

owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for any

recreational purpose or to give any warning of hazardous conditions, uses of, structures,

or activities on such premises to persons entering for such purpose, except as provided in

this section.”].) Unlike the foregoing statutes, however, Health and Safety Code section

1797.196, subdivision (f), does not state categorically or explicitly, for example, that no

building owner or manager (or business establishment) shall be held liable for failing to

acquire or install an AED (or owes no duty to acquire an AED), but instead states only

that “[n]othing in [Health and Safety Code section 1797.196] or Section 1714.21 of the

Civil Code” may be construed to impose such a requirement. In our view, this language

cannot properly be interpreted to preclude courts from determining, under generally

applicable common law principles, whether, and if so under what circumstances, an

individual‟s or entity‟s common law duty of reasonable care may include a duty to

provide an AED for use in the event of a medical emergency.

16

In support of a contrary conclusion, Target relies upon two Court of Appeal

decisions — Rotolo v. San Jose Sports & Entertainment, LLC (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th

307 (Rotolo) and Breaux v. Gino’s, Inc. (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 379 (Breaux). Although

there is language in Rotolo and Breaux supportive of Target‟s position, the relevant

language was not necessary for the decision in either case and, as explained, the result

reached in each of those decisions more soundly rests on grounds unrelated to Health and

Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f).

In Rotolo, supra, 151 Cal.App.4th 307, the parents of a teenager who died as a

result of sudden cardiac arrest while participating in an ice hockey game sued the owners

of the ice hockey facility where their son died. The facts in Rotolo were particularly

tragic because the ice hockey facility in question had in fact acquired an AED, which was

located quite close to the spot where the teenager collapsed, but the coaches and other

persons who were present during the game were unaware of the AED‟s location.

Emergency medical personnel, who were immediately summoned, arrived at the scene

too late to resuscitate the teenager. In their lawsuit, the teenager‟s parents maintained

that the ice hockey facility‟s common law duty of reasonable care included an obligation

to notify all users of the facility of the existence and location of any AED at the facility,

and that the facility should be held liable for breach of this duty. The trial court sustained

a demurrer to the parents‟ complaint and entered judgment for the defendant ice hockey

facility, and, on appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court of Appeal in Rotolo pointed out that under

Civil Code section 1714.21, subdivision (d), an entity that acquires an AED for

emergency care is not liable for civil damages resulting from any acts or omissions in the

use of the AED so long as the entity has complied with the requirements set forth in

Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (b), and that section 1797.196,

subdivision (b), in turn, requires the acquirer (in addition to other conditions) to notify all

tenants of the building as to the existence and location of any AED (§ 1797.196,

17

subd. (b)(4)), but imposes no other notification requirements on an acquirer and, in

particular, does not require the acquirer of an AED to notify all users of the property of

the existence and location of the AED. Because the defendant in Rotolo had acquired an

AED and had complied with all the requirements set forth in Health and Safety Code

section 1797.196, subdivision (b), the Court of Appeal in Rotolo concluded, properly in

our view, that the defendant ice hockey facility was entitled to the immunity afforded by

Civil Code section 1714.21, subdivision (d); “imposition of . . . duties that are not clearly

outlined in the statutes would tend to discourage, rather than to encourage, the voluntary

acquisition of AED‟s, and would thus defeat the underlying legislative purpose of

promoting the widespread use of these devices.” (Rotolo, supra, 151 Cal.App.4th at

p. 314.)

Although the appellate court in Rotolo properly ruled in the defendant‟s favor

because the defendant in that case had acquired an AED and had complied with all the

prerequisites for civil immunity that the statutes prescribed for entities who acquire an

AED, at one point in the course of its opinion the Court of Appeal in Rotolo included the

broad statement that “the Legislature has made clear that building owners and managers

have no duty in the first instance to acquire and install an AED,” citing Health and Safety

Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f). (Rotolo, supra, 151 Cal.App.4th at p. 314.) That

statement was clearly dictum inasmuch as the defendant in Rotolo had voluntarily

acquired and installed an AED. In any event, other references in Rotolo to Health and

Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f), properly describe that provision as

indicating simply that the Legislature, by its enactment of Civil Code section 1714.21

and Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, did not intend to impose such a duty on

building owners and managers. (Rotolo, supra, at pp. 320, 324.)

Comparable language contained in the Court of Appeal decision in Breaux, supra,

153 Cal.App.3d 379, upon which Target also relies, similarly overstates the effect of the

statutory language that was at issue in that case. Breaux was a wrongful death action,

18

brought by a husband whose wife died after choking on food while dining at a restaurant.

At the time of the incident in Breaux, the restaurant had posted in an appropriate place

state-approved instructions for the removal of food lodged in a person‟s throat, but no

one in the restaurant attempted to remove the food from the wife‟s throat. Instead, a

restaurant employee summoned an ambulance. The wife was alive when the ambulance

arrived but died thereafter.

In Breaux, supra, 153 Cal.App.3d 379, the husband brought suit against the

restaurant, contending that it was negligent in failing to administer appropriate first aid to

his wife. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant restaurant

and, on appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed in a brief opinion. In its opinion, the court

in Breaux recognized that past California decisions had established “that restaurants have

a legal duty to come to the assistance of their customers who become ill or need medical

attention and that they are liable if they fail to act.” (Breaux, supra, at p. 382.) The court

in Breaux further observed, however, that “the nature and extent of their duty, i.e., what

physical acts restaurants and their personnel are required to perform, has never been

decided by a California court” (ibid.), and it went on to conclude that the Legislature had

resolved the question of the nature and extent of a restaurant‟s duty with respect to

patrons who have food lodged in their throats through one aspect of a then existing

statutory provision relating to that subject.

The statute relied upon by the court in Breaux — Health and Safety Code former

section 28689 — required the state department of health to adopt instructions for use in

removing food lodged in a person‟s throat and to supply such instructions to the

proprietor of every restaurant in the state. The statute also required the proprietor of

every restaurant to post the instructions in a conspicuous place “in order that the

instructions may be consulted by anyone attempting to provide relief to a victim in a

choking emergency.” The statute further stated: “Nothing in this section shall impose

any obligation on any person to remove, assist in removing, or attempt to remove food

19

which has become stuck in another person’s throat.” (Italics added.)12 After quoting the

emphasized language, the court in Breaux stated briefly and without further explanation:

“We hold that this statute establishes as a matter of law that a restaurant meets its legal

duty to a patron in distress when it summons medical assistance within a reasonable

time.” (Breaux, supra, 153 Cal.App.3d at p. 382.)

In reaching this conclusion, the court in Breaux, supra, 153 Cal.App.3d 379, failed

to consider explicitly the fact that the statutory language on which it relied stated simply

that nothing “in this section” shall impose such an obligation (Health & Saf. Code,

former § 28689, italics added). The court did not address whether such language

purported to preclude a court from determining whether a restaurant‟s common law duty


12

At the time of the Breaux decision, Health and Safety Code section 28689

provided in full: “The state department shall adopt and approve first aid instructions
designed and intended for use in removing food which may become stuck in a person‟s
throat. Such instructions shall be limited to first aid techniques not involving the use of
any physical instrument or device inserted into the victim‟s mouth or throat.


“The state department shall supply to the proprietor of every restaurant in this state

such adopted and approved instructions. The proprietor of every restaurant shall post the
instructions in a conspicuous place or places, which may include an employee notice
board, in order that the proprietor and employees may become familiar with them, and in
order that the instructions may be consulted by anyone attempting to provide relief to a
victim in a choking emergency.


“In the absence of other evidence of noncompliance with this section, the fact that

the instructions were not posted as required by this section at the time of a choking
emergency shall not in and of itself subject such proprietor or his employees or
independent contractors to liability in any civil action for damages for personal injuries or
wrongful death arising from such choking emergency.


“Nothing in this section shall impose any obligation on any person to remove,

assist in removing, or attempt to remove food which has become stuck in another
person‟s throat. In any action for damages for personal injuries or wrongful death neither
the proprietor nor any person who nonnegligently under the circumstances removes,
assists in removing, or attempts to remove such food in accordance with instructions
adopted by the state department, in an emergency in a restaurant, shall be liable for any
civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering such
emergency assistance.” (Stats. 1975, ch. 1142, § 1, pp. 2826-2827.)

20

of reasonable care might include, either in general or in light of a special risk of choking

that might be posed by particular foods or the frequency at which such choking may have

occurred at the establishment, an obligation to take reasonable steps to attempt to

dislodge an obstructing particle of food from a choking customer. As in Rotolo, the

result reached by the court in Breaux — affirming summary judgment in favor of the

defendant restaurant — may well have been defensible in light of other aspects of former

section 28689 that could reasonably have been interpreted as intended to grant immunity

from potential civil liability to any restaurant, like the defendant in Breaux, that properly

posted the state-supplied instructions in conformance with the statutory requirements.13

But the fact that the statutory provision at issue in Breaux specified simply that nothing in

the statute imposed an obligation to remove or attempt to remove food which has become

lodged in a customer‟s throat was not itself sufficient, in our view, to preclude a court

from determining whether, under generally applicable common law principles, such a

duty should properly be recognized under the common law. The court in Breaux failed

adequately to consider the common law as an alternative source of potential tort duty or


13

As set forth in footnote 12, ante, the third paragraph of Health and Safety Code

former section 28689 stated that “[i]n the absence of other evidence . . . the fact that the
instructions were not posted as required by this section at the time of a choking
emergency shall not in and of itself subject such proprietor or his employees . . . to
liability in any civil action for damages . . . arising from such choking emergency.”
(Stats. 1975, ch. 1142, § 1, p. 2826.) By implication, this paragraph could reasonably be
interpreted to extend immunity from civil liability to any proprietor who properly posted
the state-supplied instructions as required by the section.


In addition, the fourth paragraph of Health and Safety Code former section 28689

stated: “In any action for damages for personal injuries or wrongful death neither the
proprietor nor any person who nonnegligently under the circumstances removes, assists
in removing, or attempts to remove such food in accordance with instructions adopted by
the state department, in an emergency in a restaurant, shall be liable for any civil
damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering such emergency
assistance.” (Stats. 1975, ch. 1142, § 1, p. 2826.)

21

liability, distinct and independent of any statutorily imposed requirement. We note that

the statutory provision relied upon in Breaux, after being renumbered on several

occasions (Stats. 1984, ch. 256, § 1, pp. 790-791; Stats. 1995, ch. 415, § 6, p. 2813), was

repealed in 2006. (Stats. 2006, ch. 23, § 1, p. 86.)

For the reasons discussed above, we conclude that the language of Health and

Safety Code section 1797.196, subdivision (f), cannot properly be interpreted to preclude

a court from determining whether a business‟s common law duty to exercise reasonable

care with regard to the health and safety of its customers includes, either in general or in

particular circumstances, an obligation to acquire and make available an AED for use in a

medical emergency.


B. Do the current California AED statutes reflect a legislative intent to


“occupy the field” with regard to AEDs and thus implicitly preclude recognition of a
common law duty to acquire and make available an AED?


As already noted, in addition to relying upon Health and Safety Code section

1797.196, subdivision (f), Target alternatively contends that current California AED

statutes, viewed as a whole, “occupy the field” with regard to the regulation of AEDs,

and thus implicitly preclude courts from determining whether California common law

imposes on a business establishment a duty to acquire or make available an AED for the

use of its customers in a medical emergency, either generally or in particular

circumstances. As explained, we conclude that current California AED statutes do not

support this claim.

As this court observed in I.E. Associates v. Safeco Title Ins. Co. (1985) 39 Cal.3d

281, 285: “The general rule is that statutes do not supplant the common law unless it

appears that the Legislature intended to cover the entire subject or, in other words, to

„occupy the field.‟ [Citations.] „[G]eneral and comprehensive legislation, where course

of conduct, parties, things affected, limitations and exceptions are minutely described,

22

indicates a legislative intent that the statute should totally supersede and replace the

common law dealing with the subject matter.‟ ”

We conclude that the current California AED statutes do not evince any such

legislative intent. The principal general AED statutes — Civil Code section 1714.21 and

Health and Safety Code section 1797.196 — set forth the circumstances in which an

individual or entity who acquires or uses an AED will be immune from civil liability for

damages relating to the use or nonuse of the AED. Those statutes are not incompatible

with a common law rule that requires either a particular type of business establishment,

or business establishments in general, to acquire an AED for the use of its customers in a

medical emergency, because those immunity statutes would fully apply and would afford

statutory immunity from civil liability to such a business so long as it complied with the

requirements set forth in the statutory provisions. Although the AED immunity statutes

were unquestionably enacted to provide an incentive to individuals and entities to

voluntarily acquire and make available AEDs for use in an emergency (see Assem. Com.

on Judiciary, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 2041 (2001-2002 Reg. Sess.) as amended Apr.

16, 2002), by their terms the statutes apply fully to individuals or entities who acquire

and make available AEDs and comply with all of the prerequisites to immunity set forth

in the statutes even if such individuals or entities acquire an AED under compulsion of,

or in compliance with, a common law duty. The applicability of the immunity statutes to

entities who are under a common law duty to acquire and provide an AED would not in

any way reduce or undermine the incentive that the immunity statutes provide to persons

or entities that voluntarily obtain and make available AEDs.

In addition to the statutory provisions affording civil immunity to those who

acquire AEDs under specified circumstances, the Legislature has enacted one statutory

provision — Health and Safety Code section 104113 — that requires one category of

business establishments — health studios — to acquire and maintain AEDs for the use of

their customers in a medical emergency. Although to date the Legislature has chosen to

23

mandate that AEDs be provided only in health studios, there is nothing in section 104113

that would be incompatible with a court‟s determination that, under generally applicable

common law principles, the common law duty of care of another category or categories

of business establishments (or of business establishments generally) also includes an

obligation to acquire an AED for the benefit of the business‟s customers. Such a

determination regarding the scope of a business‟s common law duty would not interfere

with or undermine the operation of section 104113, or constitute impermissible judicial

second-guessing of the Legislature‟s action. As this court explained in City of Moorpark

v. Superior Court, supra, 18 Cal.4th at page 1156: “When courts enforce a common law

remedy despite the existence of a [different] statutory remedy, they are not „say[ing] that

a different rule for the particular facts should have been written by the Legislature.‟

[Citation.] They are simply saying that the common law „rule‟ coexists with the statutory

„rule.‟ ”

Finally, the Legislature‟s enactment of Government Code section 8455, to

encourage and facilitate the placement of AEDs in state-owned and state-leased

buildings, is not inconsistent with, and does not even implicate, the question of the scope

of a private business‟s common law duty of care to its customers, and certainly does not

evince a legislative intent to preclude California courts from determining the scope of

such duty as it relates to the acquisition and provision of AEDs on business premises.

In addition to relying upon the Legislature‟s enactment of Civil Code section

1714.21, Health and Safety Code sections 1797.196 and 104113, and Government Code

section 8455 to support its claim that the current California AED statutes should be

viewed as fully “occupying the field” of AED requirements, Target also points to the fact

that in 2009 the Legislature passed a bill that would have additionally required golf

courses and amusement parks to acquire and install AEDs, but that the Governor vetoed

the bill. (Assem. Bill No. 1312 (2009-2010 Reg. Sess.), § 1, passed Sept. 9, 2009, vetoed

Oct. 12, 2009.) This legislative action (or inaction), however, no more than the

24

Legislature‟s enactment of Health and Safety Code section 104113 relating to health

studios, does not indicate a legislative intent to preclude California courts from

determining, under generally applicable common law principles, whether a common law

duty to acquire an AED should properly be recognized for a particular category of

business or more generally.14

In sum, we conclude that the current California AED statutes do not constitute the

type of “ „[g]eneral and comprehensive legislation, where course of conduct, parties,

things affected, limitations and exceptions are minutely described‟ ” (I.E. Associates v.

Safeco Title Ins. Co., supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 285, italics added) so as to indicate that the

Legislature intended the statutes to totally supersede and preclude any operation of

general common law tort principles with regard to the acquisition and provision of AEDs.

Accordingly, we conclude that the California AED statutes, when viewed as a whole, do

not fully “occupy the field” and thereby implicitly preclude California courts from

determining whether, under California common law, Target‟s common law duty of


14

Target contends that the gubernatorial veto of Assembly Bill No. 1312 (2009-2010

Reg. Sess.) has particular significance because the veto came after the California Health
and Human Services Agency had advised the Governor that the bill “would increase costs
. . . with no clear evidence that the availability of these devices would save lives.” (Cal.
Health & Human Services Agency, Enrolled Bill Rep. on Assem. Bill No. 1312 (2009-
2010 Reg. Sess.) Sept. 29, 2009, p. 8.) The bill in question, however, proposed, in
addition to adding AED requirements for golf courses and amusement parks, to extend to
2014 the existing 2012 sunset date applicable to the AED requirement for health studios,
and in vetoing the bill the Governor did not cite the California Health and Human
Services Agency‟s comments, but instead stated that “[t]here is no compelling need to
extend the 2012 sunset date at this time, especially when a reasonable exemption for a
particular type of business model was sought and rejected. I am not willing to extend this
law to additional businesses until this problem is addressed.” (Governor‟s veto message
concerning Assem. Bill No. 1312 (Oct. 12, 2009) __ Assem. J. (2009-2010 Reg. Sess.)
p. 3513 <http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_1301-
1350/ab_1312/vt/20091012.html> [as of OPN FILE DATE].)

25

reasonable care to its patrons includes an obligation to acquire and make available an

AED for use in a medical emergency.15

Although, for the reasons discussed above, we conclude that the current California

statutes do not preclude courts from determining whether a common law duty to acquire

and make available an AED (either in general or in particular circumstances) should be

recognized, it should be emphasized that this does not mean that in considering whether

such a common law duty should be recognized, courts should not take into account the

existing California AED statutes insofar as such statutes bear on the relevant policy

considerations that affect that determination. As explained hereafter, in considering

whether Target‟s common law duty of care to its patrons includes a duty to acquire and


15

For the reasons discussed in the text, we disapprove dicta in Rotolo v. San Jose

Sports & Entertainment, LLC, supra, 151 Cal.App.4th at page 314, stating broadly that
“the Legislature has occupied the field by enacting a number of detailed and
comprehensive statutes governing the acquisition and use of AED‟s,” and citing Civil
Code section 1714.21, Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, and Government Code
section 8455. As explained earlier (ante, pp. 17-18), the Rotolo court correctly concluded
that an entity that acquires an AED and that fully complies with the requirements set
forth in Health and Safety Code section 1797.196 is immune from civil liability under
Civil Code section 1714.21, and that, in light of such statutes, the common law cannot
properly be viewed as imposing liability upon an acquirer of an AED on the basis of
additional requirements or duties not set forth in Health and Safety Code section
1797.196. In this limited sense, it can be said that the provisions of Civil Code section
1714.21 and Health and Safety Code section 1797.196 “occupy the field” regarding the
duty or requirements that may be placed upon an acquirer of an AED in order to obtain
immunity from civil liability
. (Accord, I.E. Associates v. Safeco Title Ins. Co., supra, 39
Cal.3d at p. 285 & fn. 3 [holding that the statutory provisions regulating the nonjudicial
foreclosure of deeds of trust were intended to “occupy the field” with regard to “the
question of notice that must be given before a foreclosure sale” but cautioning that
nothing in the opinion “is designed to affect the duties imposed on the trustee concerning
the conduct of the sale”].) As explained in the text, however, the statutes in question
cannot properly be viewed as intended to preclude courts from determining whether, and
if so under what circumstances, California common law imposes a duty upon a business
to acquire an AED for the use of its customers in a medical emergency.

26

make available in its stores an AED, the current California AED statutes are relevant and

instructive in a number of respects. (See post, pp. 34-38.)

V. Under California Law, Does Target Have a Common Law Duty to

Acquire and Make Available One or More AEDs to Aid a Patron in a Medical
Emergency?


In analyzing the scope of the common law duty of reasonable care that a business

entity owes to its patrons or customers to determine whether that duty includes an

obligation to acquire and make available an AED, we begin with the well-established

principle, set forth in the governing California cases, that whereas, as a general rule, an

individual or entity does not have a duty under the common law to come to the aid of

another person whom the individual or entity has not injured (the general no-duty-to-

rescue rule; see Rest.2d Torts, § 314, p. 116),16 a different rule is applicable with regard

to the common law duty that a business entity owes to its patrons on its business

premises. Because of the so-called “special relationship” between a business entity and

its patrons, past California cases have recognized that a business may have a duty, under

the common law, to take reasonable action to protect or aid patrons who sustain an injury


16

Section 314 of the Restatement Second of Torts states: “The fact that the actor

realizes or should realize that action on his part is necessary for another‟s aid or
protection does not of itself impose upon him a duty to take such action.”


Comment c to section 314 explains: “The origin of the rule lay in the early

common law distinction between action and inaction, or „misfeasance‟ and „non-
feasance.‟ In the early law one who injured another by a positive affirmative act was
held liable without any great regard even for his fault. But the courts were far too much
occupied with the more flagrant forms of misbehavior to be greatly concerned with one
who merely did nothing, even though another might suffer serious harm because of his
omission to act. Hence liability for non-feasance was slow to receive any recognition in
the law. It appeared first in, and is still largely confined to, situations in which there was
some special relation between the parties, on the basis of which the defendant was found
to have a duty to take action for the aid or protection of the plaintiff.” (Rest.2d Torts,
§ 314, com. c, pp. 116-117.)

27

or suffer an illness while on the business‟s premises, including “undertak[ing] relatively

simple measures such as providing „assistance [to] their customers who become ill or

need medical attention . . . .‟ ” (Delgado v. Trax Bar & Grill (2005) 36 Cal.4th 224, 241

(Delgado); see Breaux, supra, 153 Cal.App.3d at p. 382; De Vera v. Long Beach Pub.

Transportation Co. (1986) 180 Cal.App.3d 782, 793-794; see generally Rest.2d Torts,

§ 314A, p. 118.)17

All the parties in this case agree that, under California law, Target has a common

law duty to provide at least some assistance to a patron who suffers a sudden cardiac

arrest while shopping at a Target store. The parties sharply disagree, however, as to the

scope of that duty. Target maintains that its employees fully satisfied its common law

duty of reasonable care by immediately summoning emergency medical personnel upon

learning of the patron‟s collapse, and that at most it might be required to provide simple

first aid measures but that it had no duty to acquire an AED in advance of the incident for

17

Section 314A of the Restatement Second of Torts, entitled “Special Relations

Giving Rise to Duty to Aid or Protect,” states:
“(1) A common carrier is under a duty to its passengers to take reasonable action


“(a) to protect them against unreasonable risk of physical harm, and

“(b) to give them first aid after it knows or has reason to know that they are ill or

injured, and to care for them until they can be cared for by others.
“(2) An innkeeper is under a similar duty to his guests.
“(3) A possessor of land who holds it open to the public is under a similar duty to
members of the public who enter in response to his invitation.
“(4) One who is required by law to take or who voluntarily takes the custody of another
under circumstances such as to deprive the other of his normal opportunities for
protection is under a similar duty to the other.” (Rest.2d Torts, § 314A, p. 118.)


A caveat to section 314A states: “The Institute expresses no opinion as to whether

there may not be other relations which impose a similar duty.” (Rest.2d Torts, supra, at
p. 119.)


Past cases have consistently interpreted subdivision (3) of section 314A (Rest.2d

Torts) to encompass a business entity, like Target, whose business premises are open to
the public, and more broadly to reflect the duty owed by business entities to patrons who
are injured or fall ill while on the business‟s premises. Target does not argue otherwise.

28

potential use in the event of such a medical emergency. By contrast, plaintiffs assert that

because of the important potentially life-saving role that an AED may play in the event of

sudden cardiac arrest, the size of the Target store in question, the number of customers

who patronize the store, and the relatively low cost of an AED device, Target‟s common

law duty of reasonable care to its patrons included an obligation to obtain an AED, and

that a jury could properly find that Target acted unreasonably and negligently in failing to

do so and that such negligence was a substantial cause of the sudden-cardiac-arrest

victim‟s death.

We have no occasion in this case to determine whether a business entity‟s

common law duty to provide assistance to an injured or ill patron never requires a

business to do anything more than to promptly summon emergency medical assistance, as

Target suggests, or whether a business‟s common law duty of reasonable care, in some

circumstances, may require it to take some additional measures beyond summoning

emergency medical assistance. Plaintiffs‟ claim in this case rests solely on Target‟s

failure to acquire and make available in its department store an AED for use in a medical

emergency.18 Accordingly, we limit our consideration to this issue only. (Castenada v.

Olsher (2007) 41 Cal.4th 1205, 1214 [“The duty analysis . . . requires the court . . . to

identify the specific action or actions the plaintiff claims the defendant had a duty to

undertake”].) For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the common law duty of

reasonable care that Target owes to its business patrons does not include such an

obligation.


18

As we explain hereafter, a duty “to acquire and make available” an AED must

reasonably be understood to entail a variety of related obligations, including proper
maintenance of the AED, AED and CPR training and practice, and staffing of trained
personnel. (See post, p. 34.)

29

There have been a few California Court of Appeal cases that directly involved the

question of a business‟s common law duty to provide first aid or medical assistance to a

patron who is injured or becomes ill on the business‟s premises. (See, e.g., Rotolo, supra,

151 Cal.App.4th 307; Breaux, supra, 153 Cal.App.3d 379.) However, all of the most

analogous California common law cases that have reached this court have involved the

distinct but related question whether a business has a common law duty to take steps to

protect its patrons from criminal activity of third persons that endangers such patrons on

its premises. (See, e.g., Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114; Isaacs v.

Huntington Memorial Hospital (1985) 38 Cal.3d 112; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping

Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666 (Ann M.); Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., Inc. v. Superior

Court, supra, 14 Cal.4th 814; Delgado, supra, 36 Cal.4th 224; Castaneda v. Olsher,

supra, 41 Cal.4th 1205.) As noted above (ante, at p. 28, fn. 17), section 314A of the

Restatement Second of Torts groups together both the duty to provide aid to an ill or

injured patron and the duty to protect a patron against an unreasonable risk of physical

harm, reflecting the fact that in both settings the legal duty to the patron arises from the

relationship between the parties and exists even though a business has not itself caused

the injury or illness in question. This court‟s decision in Delgado, supra, 36 Cal.4th 224,

which involved the scope of a business‟s common law duty to protect a patron against a

third-party criminal assault, recognized the similarity between the two settings, citing and

relying upon one of the California Court of Appeal decisions that set forth a business‟s

common law duty to “undertake relatively simple measures” to aid patrons who become

ill or need medical attention while on the business‟s premises. (Id. at p. 241 [citing

Breaux, supra, 153 Cal.App.3d 379, 382].)

With respect to third-party criminal conduct, our past decisions have noted a

distinction between (1) a business‟s duty to take precautionary steps, in advance of any

specific criminal activity, to provide protections to its patrons against criminal conduct

that may occur in the future, and (2) a business‟s duty to take immediate action in

30

response to ongoing criminal activity that threatens the safety of its patrons. (See, e.g.,

Delgado, supra, 36 Cal.4th at pp. 240-242; Morris v. De La Torre (2005) 36 Cal.4th 260,

271.)

In considering the scope of a business‟s common law duty to take reasonable steps

to protect the health of its patrons while the patrons are on the business‟s premises, we

draw a comparable distinction between (1) a business‟s common law duty to take

precautionary steps prior to the time such an injury or illness has occurred in light of the

foreseeability that such an injury or illness may occur, and (2) a business‟s common law

duty to act to assist a patron from an ongoing threat to the patron‟s health and safety after

the patron has experienced an injury or illness on the business’s premises.

In the present case, plaintiffs do not claim that Target failed to take adequate steps

to protect its patron after she suffered sudden cardiac arrest. Thus, this second aspect of a

business‟s common law duty is not implicated in this case.

Instead, we consider whether Target had a common law duty to take the

precautionary step of acquiring and making available an AED in advance of a medical

emergency in light of the possibility that such a medical emergency might occur on the

business premises sometime in the future.

In evaluating whether a business is under a duty to provide precautionary

measures to protect patrons against potential third-party criminal conduct, past California

cases generally have looked primarily to a number of factors, including (1) the degree of

foreseeability that the danger will arise on the business‟s premises and (2) the relative

burden that providing a particular precautionary measure will place upon the business.

(See, e.g., Ann M., supra, 6 Cal.4th at pp. 678-679; Sharon P. v. Arman, Ltd. (1999) 21

Cal.4th 1181, 1189-1199; Delgado, supra, 36 Cal.4th at pp. 236-240; Castenada v.

31

Olsher, supra, 41 Cal.4th at pp. 1213-1214.)19 If the relative burden of providing a

particular precautionary safety or security measure is onerous rather than minimal, the

governing cases have held that absent a showing of a “heightened” or “high degree” of

foreseeability of the danger in question, it is not appropriate for courts to recognize or

impose a common law duty to provide the measure. (See, e.g., Ann M., supra, at p. 679;

Delgado, supra, at pp. 243-244, fn. 24; Castaneda v. Olsher, supra, at p. 1213.) These

decisions implicitly recognize that, in the absence of such heightened foreseeability, the

determination whether a business (or businesses in general) should be required to provide

a costly or burdensome precautionary safety measure to protect against potential future

third-party criminal conduct should more appropriately be made by the Legislature rather

than by a jury applying a general reasonableness standard in a particular case.

There are, of course, differences between the risk to a business patron posed by

potential third-party criminal conduct on the business‟s premises and the risk that a

patron may suffer a medical emergency on a business‟s premises because of the patron‟s

own medical condition, and those differences, in many circumstances, may reasonably

affect the nature and scope of the duty that a business owes to protect a patron from such

risk of harm.20 For purposes of resolving the issue before us in this case, however, we


19

These factors are among those set forth in Rowland v. Christian, supra, 69 Cal.2d

108, 113, as considerations that California courts generally look to in determining the
existence and scope of a common law duty. As listed in Rowland, the considerations
include “the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the degree of certainty that the
plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant‟s conduct
and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant‟s conduct, the policy
of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to
the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and
the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.” (69 Cal.2d at
p. 113.)

20

For example, a business owner may ordinarily be in a better position than a patron

to evaluate the risk that a third-party criminal assault will occur on its premises, but such


(footnote continued on next page)

32

need go no further than to conclude that, as in the criminal assault cases, when the

precautionary medical safety measures that a plaintiff contends a business should have

provided are costly or burdensome rather than minimal, the common law does not impose

a duty on a business to provide such safety measures in the absence of a showing of a

heightened or high degree of foreseeability of the medical risk in question. In the

absence of at least a showing of heightened foreseeability of the particular medical risk at

issue, the policy decision whether a particular type of business (or businesses in general)

should be required to provide a costly or burdensome precautionary safety measure for

use in the event of a possible medical emergency resulting from a patron‟s medical

condition is appropriately made by the Legislature, rather than by a jury on a case-by-

case basis guided only by a general, unfocused “reasonable care” standard after a medical

emergency has already occurred.

In their briefing at earlier stages of this litigation, plaintiffs maintained that

requiring a business to acquire and make available an AED would impose only a

relatively minor burden on a business establishment, relying primarily upon the fact that

Target itself sold AEDs on its Web site for approximately $1,200. In the briefs filed in

this court, however, plaintiffs appear to acknowledge that a requirement that a business

acquire and make available an AED for use in a medical emergency cannot accurately be

described as imposing only a minor burden on a business establishment. In their current

briefs, plaintiffs explicitly disclaim any intent to seek a ruling that would recognize a

general common law duty to provide an AED that would be applicable to all retail

establishments including, for example, “a modest neighborhood dry cleaners or gas


(footnote continued from previous page)

a business owner may not be better able than a patron to evaluate the risk that a patron
will suffer a medical emergency on its premises as the result of the patron‟s personal
medical condition.

33

station.” Instead, plaintiffs ask this court to recognize a common law duty to provide an

AED only “for proprietors who have the manpower and the resources to fulfill the

requirements of the AED immunity statutes without undue burden.”

We agree with plaintiffs‟ apparent current concession that a general common law

duty to acquire and make available an AED for the use of its patrons would impose

considerably more than a minor or minimal burden on a business establishment. The

statutory provisions and related regulations establishing the prerequisites to civil

immunity for those entities acquiring an AED reflect the numerous related requirements

that a jury is likely to view as reasonably necessary to comply with such a duty. Apart

from the initial cost of the AEDs themselves, significant obligations with regard to the

number, the placement, and the ongoing maintenance of such devices, combined with the

need to regularly train personnel to properly utilize and service the AEDs and to

administer CPR, as well as to have trained personnel reasonably available on the business

premises, illustrate the magnitude of the burden. (See Health & Saf. Code, § 1797.196,

subd. (b); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 22, §§ 100031-100056.2.) Compliance with these

numerous obligations clearly implicates more than a minor or minimal burden.21

With respect to the question of foreseeability, plaintiffs‟ complaint does not point

to any aspect of Target‟s operations or the activities that Target‟s patrons engage in on its

premises to indicate a high degree or heightened foreseeability that its patrons will suffer


21

One secondary source notes an additional burden that is ordinarily entailed when

an AED is installed in an area open and accessible to the public. The article explains:
“Any equipment is useless unless it is readily accessible in an emergency . . . . [ . . .
Unfortunately, accessibility will provide opportunities for theft or vandalism of
equipment. This problem has been solved in many schools and public places such as
airports by the use of mounted cabinets with audible alarms that sound when the cabinet
door is opened. These cabinets cost [approximately] $250 to $500.” (Hazinski, Response
to Cardiac Arrest and Selected Life-Threatening Medical Emergencies
(2004) 109
Circulation 278, 285.)

34

sudden cardiac arrest on its premises. Instead, it appears that the risk of such an

occurrence is no greater at Target than at any other location open to the public.22

Furthermore, plaintiff argues in its brief that death is especially likely to result from

sudden cardiac arrest that occurs in a big-box store “because it is impossible for

emergency crews to reach a stricken invitee in time” in a large, heavily trafficked

building. There is nothing, however, to suggest that the risk of death from sudden cardiac

arrest in a big-box store is any greater than the risk of death from sudden cardiac arrest

that occurs at any other location that is equally or more distant from existing emergency

medical services.

In light of the extent of the burden that would be imposed by a requirement to

acquire and make available an AED and in the absence of any showing of heightened

foreseeability of sudden cardiac arrest or of an increased risk of death, we conclude that

under California law, Target owes no common law duty to its customers to acquire and

make available an AED. Under these circumstances, it is appropriate to leave to the

Legislature the policy decision whether a business entity should be required to acquire

and make available an AED for the protection of its patrons. (Cf., e.g., Philadelphia

Indemnity Ins. Co. v. Montes-Harris (2006) 40 Cal.4th 151, 163 [“the Legislature stands

in the best position to identify and weigh the competing consumer, business, and public

safety considerations”]; accord, California Grocers Assn. v. City of Los Angeles (2011)

52 Cal.4th 177, 210.)

Furthermore, numerous factors that logically bear on the question whether, as a

matter of public policy, an obligation to acquire and make available an AED should be


22

We note in this regard that the fact that occasional incidents of sudden cardiac

arrest may have occurred in the past in Target stores nationwide, or even in the particular
Target store in question, would not demonstrate a “heightened foreseeability” of such
incidents in Target stores over other venues, inasmuch as such occasional incidents of
sudden cardiac arrest could occur in any venue.

35

imposed upon a particular type of business provide further support for the conclusion that

that determination should be made by the Legislature rather than by a jury on a case-by-

case basis. For example, the nature of a business‟s activities, the relationship of those

activities to the risk that a patron may suffer sudden cardiac arrest, the proximity of the

business to other emergency medical services, and other potentially relevant factors are

considerations that appear especially appropriate for legislative inquiry and

determination. (See, e.g., Md. Inst. for Emergency Medical Services Systems, Rep. to the

Maryland General Assembly Regarding the Placement of Automated External

Defibrillators (Dec. 2007)

<http://www.miemss.org/home/Policy/LegislativeReports/tabid/134/Default.aspx> [as of

OPN FILE DATE]; Nichol et al., Cost Effectiveness of Defibrillation by Target

Responders in Public Settings (2003) 108 Circulation 697

<http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/108/6/697.full> [as of OPN FILE DATE]; Cram et

al., Cost-effectiveness of Automated External Defibrillator Deployment in Selected Public

Locations (2003) 18 J. Gen. Internal Med. 745.). Similarly, the relative size of a retail

business‟s premises, the number of patrons the business serves, or the amount of its

owner‟s resources — factors which plaintiffs urge this court to rely on in this case to limit

the reach of a decision in their favor — do not lend themselves to the formulation of a

workable common law rule that would provide adequate guidance to businesses. Instead

these factors are considerations that are much more suitable to legislative evaluation and

line-drawing. Leaving such factors to be evaluated by a jury under a reasonableness

standard on a case-by-case basis after a fatal heart attack has occurred on the business‟s

premises, as plaintiffs urge, would as a realistic matter effectively require most if not all

businesses to take all of the precautionary steps necessary to qualify for civil immunity

under the applicable Good Samaritan statutes.

As we have seen, the California Legislature is well aware of the magnitude and

severity of the health risks posed by sudden cardiac arrest and has taken a variety of steps

36

to address this serious problem. To encourage the voluntary acquisition of AEDs, the

Legislature has afforded immunity from potential civil liability, under specified

circumstances, for all businesses that acquire AEDs and make them available to their

patrons. (Civ. Code, § 1714.21, Health & Saf. Code, § 1797.196.) In addition, the

Legislature has encouraged and facilitated the provision of AEDs in many state-owned

and state-leased buildings. (Gov. Code, § 8455.) Finally, the Legislature has required all

health studios in California to make an AED available on their premises. (Health & Saf.

Code, § 104113.) To date, the Legislature has not imposed such a requirement on other

types of business establishments. For the reasons discussed above, we believe that in this

context the Legislature is generally in the best position to examine, evaluate and resolve

the public policy considerations relevant to the duty question.

We observe that in the AED realm, other state legislatures have generally taken

steps similar to those of the California Legislature. Most states in the country have, by

legislative action, adopted some form of immunity from civil liability for nonmedical

entities that acquire and make available AEDs for use in a medical emergency. (See Nat.

Conf. of State Legislatures, State Laws on Cardiac Arrest and Defibrillators, supra,

<http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/laws-on-cardiac-arrest-and-defibrillators-

aeds.aspx> [as of OPN FILE DATE].) Moreover, many other states have also, by statute,

identified health or fitness studios as places where AEDs are required to be provided,23


23

The following additional states currently require fitness studios to provide an

AED: Arkansas (Ark. Code Ann. § 20-13-1306(b)(1)), Illinois (210 Ill. Comp. Stat.
74/15), Indiana (Ind. Code § 24-4-15-5), Louisiana (La. Rev. Stat. Ann.
§ 40:1236.13(D)), Massachusetts (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93, § 78A), Michigan (Mich.
Comp. Laws § 333.26312), New Jersey (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:62A-31), New York (N.Y.
Gen. Bus. Law § 627-a), Oregon (Or. Rev. Stat. § 431.680), Pennsylvania (73 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 2174), and Rhode Island (R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-50-12).

37

and some jurisdictions have designated other locations — for example, schools,24 public

recreational facilities,25 and government buildings26 — as places where AEDs must be

made available. We are aware of only one state that by statute has singled out large retail

department stores, such as the Target store at issue here, as a location where an AED is

required to be provided.27


24

The following states require at least some schools to have an AED on school

premises: Alabama (Ala. Code § 16-1-45), Arkansas (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-10-122),
Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 10-212d, 10a-55l), Georgia (Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-
775), Maryland (Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 7-425), Nevada (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann.
§ 450B.600, subd. (1)(a)), New Jersey (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 18A:40-41a), New York (N.Y.
Educ. Law § 917), North Dakota (N.D. Cent. Code § 15.1-07-31), Oklahoma (Okla. Stat.
tit. 70, § 1210.200), Oregon (Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 339.345, 431.690, subd. (3)), South
Carolina (S.C. Code Ann. § 59-17-155), Texas (Tex. Educ. Code Ann. § 38.017),
Washington (Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.300.471).

25

The following states require an AED in some public recreation facilities:

Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-197c [golf courses], Maryland (Md. Local Gov‟t
Code Ann. § 1-1310) [swimming pools], Nevada (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 450B.600,
subd. (1)(d) [sporting arenas or events centers], and New York (N.Y. Pub. Health Law
§ 225, subds. 5-b [places of public assembly], 5-c [beaches or swimming facilities]).

26

The following states require an AED in some government buildings: Arizona

(Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 34-401), Florida (Fla. Stat. § 768.1326), Nevada (Nev. Rev. Stat.
Ann. § 450B.600, subds. (e), (f)), and Rhode Island (R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-6.2-2).

27

The one state is Oregon, which has enacted a statute that requires the owner of a

“place of public assembly” to have at least one AED on its premises, and that defines
“place of public assembly” for purposes of the statute to mean “a single building that has
50,000 square feet or more of indoor floor space . . . where . . . [t]he public congregates
for purposes of deliberation, shopping, entertainment, amusement, or awaiting
transportation . . . .” (Or. Rev. Stat. § 431.690.) Plaintiffs‟ complaint does not indicate
the square footage of the Target store at issue in this case, but Target‟s Web site indicates
that, as of January 2009, its general merchandise stores averaged 126,000 square feet.
(Target, Fast Facts (Jan. 13, 2009) <http://pressroom.target.com/news/fastfacts> [as of
OPN FILE DATE].)

38

Furthermore and most significantly, to date every state appellate court that has

confronted the legal question that is before us in this case — namely, whether a

business‟s common law duty to assist patrons who become ill on the business‟s premises

includes a duty to acquire and make available an AED — has concluded that the

business‟s common law duty does not impose such an obligation. (See, e.g., L.A. Fitness

Int’l, LLC v. Mayer (Fla.Dist.Ct.App. 2008) 980 So.2d 550, 561-562; Boller v. Robert W.

Woodruff Arts Center, Inc. (Ga.Ct.App. 2011) 716 S.E.2d 713; Salte v. YMCA of

Metropolitan Chicago Foundation (Ill.App.Ct. 2004) 814 N.E.2d 610, 615; Rutnik v.

Colonie Ctr. Court Club, Inc. (N.Y.App.Div. 1998) 672 N.Y.S.2d 451, 453.) The

uniformity of these sister-state appellate decisions lends support to our conclusion

regarding the scope of Target‟s common law duty under California law.28


28

In its opinion certifying the state law question to this court, the Ninth Circuit cited

three out-of-state trial court decisions that permitted a common law cause of action based
on a failure to provide an AED to go to trial. (Verdugo v. Target Corp., supra, 704 F.3d
1044, 1050 [citing Aquila v. Ultimate Fitness (2011, No. CV0850171595) 2011 Conn.
Super. LEXIS 1474; Ksypka v. Malden YMCA (2007, No. 03-4726) 2007 Mass. Super.
LEXIS 43; Fowler v. Bally Total Fitness Corp. (Ill.Cir.Ct. Cook Cty., 2006, No. 07 L
12258)].) The defendants in all three cases were fitness studios, and the trial court
opinion in each case, in denying the defendant‟s motion to dismiss or for summary
judgment, relied upon the heightened foreseeability of sudden cardiac arrest in the fitness
studio setting. (Aquila, supra, 2011 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1474, p. *10; Ksypka, supra,
2007 Mass. Super. LEXIS 43, pp. *1-*2; Fowler, supra, pp. 9-10.)

39



VI. Conclusion

Accordingly, in response to the Ninth Circuit‟s request, we conclude that, under

California law, Target‟s common law duty of reasonable care to its patrons does not

include an obligation to acquire and make available an AED for the use of its patrons in a

medical emergency.

CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.

WE CONCUR:

BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
CORRIGAN, J.
LIU, J.
NICHOLSON, J.*






















———————————————
* Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, assigned by the
Chief Justice pursuant to article VI, section 6 of the California Constitution.

40










CONCURRING OPINION BY WERDEGAR, J.




I agree with the majority‟s conclusion that “under California law, Target‟s

common law duty of reasonable care to its patrons does not include an obligation

to acquire and make available an AED [automated external defibrillator] for the

use of its patrons in a medical emergency.” (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 40.) Unlike the

majority, however, I reach that conclusion without analogizing this case to those

involving protection from third-party criminal activity. (Id., at pp. 30-33.) Nor do

I embrace the majority‟s broad rule, drawn from that analogy, that property

owners need not adopt any nonminimal precautionary medical safety measure “in

the absence of a showing of a heightened or high degree of foreseeability of the

medical risk in question.” (Id., at p. 33.) I would instead directly evaluate the

specific obligation proposed here, that of installing and maintaining an AED in a

large retail business, under the duty factors we outlined in Rowland v. Christian

(1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 113 (Rowland), and would hold only that the duty of

reasonable care does not extend to that particular obligation.

As the majority explains (maj. opn., ante, at pp. 27-28), because of the

special relationship between a business and its patrons, a business‟s common law

duty of due care includes the obligation to take reasonable measures to help

patrons who suffer an injury or the effects of illness while on the premises. Courts

may recognize exceptions to the duty of reasonable care where clearly supported

by public policy (Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Co. (2011) 51 Cal.4th 764, 771



(Cabral); Rowland, supra, 69 Cal.2d at p. 112) and we have identified several

factors that, taken together, may justify such a departure from the general duty

rule: “the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the degree of certainty that the

plaintiff suffered injury, the closeness of the connection between the defendant‟s

conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant's

conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the

defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care

with resulting liability for breach, and the availability, cost, and prevalence of

insurance for the risk involved.” (Rowland, at p. 113; see, e.g., Cabral, at pp. 774-

784 [rejecting claimed exception to duty of care for stopping alongside a freeway];

Parsons v. Crown Disposal Co. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 456, 472-478 [recognizing

exception to duty of care for normal operation of garbage truck near bridle path];

Rowland, at pp. 117-119 [rejecting categorical exception to duty of care for

licensees and trespassers on real property].)

That some of the millions of Californians who visit large retail stores each

year will suffer cardiac arrests while shopping is, of course, foreseeable, though as

the majority observes (maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35), the probability appears to be

no greater in a store than in any place open to the public. Nor does it appear that

cardiac arrest in a large retail store is particularly likely to lead to death. Plaintiffs

assert the size and configuration of such a store makes timely provision of

emergency medical services impossible, but they fail to demonstrate the truth of

that proposition, nor is it one we can take notice of or assume. Moreover, while

the death of a cardiac arrest victim like plaintiffs‟ decedent leaves no doubt as to

fact of injury, the connection between that injury and defendant‟s choice not to

install and maintain an AED is uncertain. The parties provide different estimates

as to how often presence of an AED saves a cardiac arrest victim, defendant

asserting around 20 to 30 percent of the time, and plaintiffs around 50 to 70

2

percent, but that an AED does not provide sure and certain protection from death

is in any event clear.

Turning to Rowland‟s public policy factors, I note that no moral blame can

be attached to the omission at issue here. “The overall policy of preventing future

harm is ordinarily served, in tort law, by imposing the costs of negligent conduct

upon those responsible.” (Cabral, supra, 51 Cal.4th at p. 781.) Here, however,

there is a substantial question whether recognizing a common law duty of care

would best serve that preventive goal in an area already significantly regulated by

statute. The Legislature‟s approach of encouraging voluntary installation of AEDs

by providing qualified immunity for ordinary negligence to those acquiring them

for emergency use (Civ. Code, § 1714.21, subd. (d)), while seeking to fund their

installation in state buildings (Gov. Code, § 8455), and requiring installation of

AEDs only in fitness facilities (Health & Saf. Code, § 104113, subd. (a)), may

well provide an equivalent level of prevention without the uncertain burdens of a

broad tort duty. As the majority observes, those burdens are likely to be more than

minimal and, because the limiting factors proposed by plaintiffs are not readily

amenable to judicial definition, they are also likely, in practice, to be widely

spread. (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-36.) The final Rowland factor, the availability

and cost of insurance for the risk, might appear to favor recognition of a duty, but

the serious, sometimes fatal consequences of cardiac arrest and the difficulty of

effectively limiting a common law duty to prepare for it create the possibility that

insurance costs would be relatively high for smaller businesses.

Balancing these foreseeability and policy factors together, I join the

majority‟s conclusion that the decision whether and how to expand the legal

obligation to install and maintain AEDs is best left to the Legislature. (Maj. opn.,

pp. 36-37.) As stated earlier, however, I do not join the majority in all of its

reasoning.

3

The majority‟s comparison to prevention of criminal acts by third parties is

not compelling and, in my view, is somewhat troubling. The negligence claims

made in these two factual contexts both rest on omissions — failure to take

preventive anticrime measures and failure to prepare for cardiac arrests by

installing an AED — rather than on any affirmative action by the property owner,

but they seem otherwise to have little in common. In the criminal assault cases the

defendant is asked to take measures to control the intentional criminal acts of

others, a type of duty that has been regarded as particularly problematic. (See Ann

M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 676 [resting analysis

on premise that “a duty to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of a

third party will be imposed only where such conduct can be reasonably

anticipated.”].) Imposing liability on a business for the consequences of a third

person‟s intentional assault involves a morally questionable shifting of

responsibility that is simply not implicated by the claim a business should have

installed an AED on its premises.

As the majority observes (maj. opn., ante, at p. 30), both prevention of

criminal assaults and aid in a medical emergency come within the general category

of a duty to aid or protect discussed in section 314A of the Restatement Second of

Torts. But that is only to say both types of negligence claims rest on the

defendant‟s nonfeasance in the face of a special relationship. By assuming merely

from their proximity in the Restatement that the nonminimal burden/heightened

foreseeability rule we have developed for prevention of criminal acts also applies

to preparation for medical emergencies, the majority may leave the unfortunate

impression that the rule for prevention of assaults applies to all claims of negligent

omission to act within a special relationship. Such a broad conclusion is unlikely

to be justified under a properly nuanced Rowland duty analysis.

4

Nor do I agree with the majority that the same rule necessarily applies to all

nonminimal “precautionary medical safety measures.” (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 33.)

To be sure, the Rowland factors are correctly applied to a category of allegedly

negligent conduct rather than to the conduct of the particular defendant in the case

at bar (Cabral, supra, 51 Cal.4th at pp. 772-774), but the category should be

framed in a manner that allows for meaningful analysis of the factors. The issue in

this case is whether large retailers have a duty to install and maintain AEDs, not

whether businesses in general have a duty to take precautionary safety measures in

general. The latter would be too broad for meaningful analysis.

For these reasons, I concur in the majority‟s result but not in the entirety of

its analysis.

WERDEGAR, J.




5

See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion Verdugo v. Target Corporation
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion

Original Appeal
Original Proceeding XXX on request pursuant to rule 8.548, Cal. Rules of Court
Review Granted
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.
S207313
Date Filed: June 23, 2014
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:

County:
Judge:

__________________________________________________________________________________

Counsel:

Tarkington, O‟Neill, Barrack & Chong, Robert A. Roth; Law Offices of David G. Eisenstein and David G.
Eisenstein for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Greene Broillet & Wheeler, Bruce A. Broillet, Alan Van Gelder; Heimberg Barr and Marsha Barr-
Fernandez for Consumer Attorneys of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Mary M. Newman for Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and
Appellants.

Law Offices of Charles S. Roseman & Associates, Charles S. Roseman and Richard D. Prager for Bobbi
Cohen, Ken Anderson, Anthony Bates Foundation, KEN Heart Foundation and Sarah Friend Heart
Foundation as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Mayer Brown, Richard Caldarone, Donald M. Falk and Foster C. Johnson for Defendant and Respondent.

Luke Wake and Deborah J. La Fetra for National Federation of Independent Business, Small Business
Legal Center and Pacific Legal Foundation as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Jackson Lewis, Dylan B. Carp and Sherry L. Swieca for Retail Litigation Center, Inc., and California
Retailers Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Erika C. Frank; and Fred J. Hiestand for The California Chamber of Commerce and The Civil Justice
Association of California as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Munger Tolles & Olson, Fred A. Rowley, Jr., and John P. Mittelbach for The Chamber of Commerce of the
United States of American and The American Tort Reform Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of
Defendant and Respondent.









Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Robert A. Roth
Tarkington, O‟Neill, Barrack & Chong
2711 Alcatraz Avenue, Suite 3
Berkeley, CA 94705-2726
(510) 704-0921

David G. Eisenstein
Law Offices of David G. Eisenstein
4027 Aiden Circle
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 730-7900

Donald M. Falk
Mayer Brown
Two Palo Alto Square, Suite 300
3000 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306-2112
(650) 331-2000



2

Request under California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, that this court decide a question of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The question presented is: "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?"

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:
Mon, 06/23/201459 Cal. 4th 312; 173 Cal. Rptr. 3d 662; 327 P.3d 774; 2014 Daily Journal D.A.R. 8060S207313

Opinion Authors
OpinionChief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye
ConcurJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar

Apr 9, 2015
Annotated by Michael Fields

Facts:

While shopping at a Target department store, Mary Ann Verdugo suffered a heart attack and collapsed. In response to a 911 call, paramedics arrived and attended to her, but were unable to revive her. Target did not have available an automated external defibrillator (AED) within the store.

Verdugo’s mother and brother filed suit against Target, alleging that the store breached the duty of care it owed to its business customers by failing to make an AED available. The plaintiffs argued that it was reasonably foreseeable that a Target customer might suffer a heart attack, that the large size of Target stores meant that Target should have known it would take paramedics longer to reach a customer in distress, and that an AED would have been an inexpensive investment for Target.

At the time of Verdugo’s death, there existed several California statutes relating to the availability and use of AEDs. Civil Code section 1714.21 granted immunity to individuals or entities from civil liability related to the purchase or use of AEDs. Health and Safety Code section 1797.196 enumerated the requirements to receive that immunity, and also included a provision stating that the statute should not be construed to require a building owner or manager to install an AED. Health and Safety Code section 104113 required “health studio[s]” to make an AED available for their customers, and finally, Government Code section 8455 required the state to apply for federal funds to purchase AEDs for state-owned and leased buildings.

Procedural History:

Plaintiffs initially brought suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, but Target removed the proceeding to federal district court. The federal district court granted Target’s motion to dismiss, finding that Target did not have a common law duty to make an AED available. The plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that there was insufficient precedent to determine the issue, and certified the question to the California Supreme Court. Verdugo v. Target Corp., 704 F.3d 1044, 1045 (9th Cir. 2012).

Issue:

Whether California’s common law duty of reasonable care required Target to make an AED available for its business customers in case of medical emergency.

Holding:

No. California precedent does not support recognition of a common law duty requiring Target to make an AED available for its business customers.

Analysis:

Majority Opinion:

Contrary to the defendant’s arguments, the California statutes concerning AEDs do not explicitly preclude a common law duty requiring businesses to make AEDs available. Also, since the statutes do not occupy the field relating to AEDs (i.e., they do not regulate the entire subject), they do not implicitly preclude such a duty either. Though Health and Safety Code section 1797.196 subdivision (f) states that the statutory framework should not be construed to require a building owner to install an AED, it does not address the question of whether such a duty may nevertheless exist under the common law. Statutes should not be found to alter the common law unless “expressly provided.” Cal. Ass’n of Health Facilities v. Dep’t of Health Servs., 16 Cal. 4th 284, 297 (1997). Neither Rotolo v. San Jose Sports & Entertainment, LLC, 151 Cal. App. 4th 307 (2007) nor Breaux v. Gino’s, Inc., 153 Cal. App. 3d 379 (1984) stand for the proposition that statutory language like that found in subdivision (f) explicitly precludes the existence of a common law duty, as the defendant contends. Furthermore, to show a legislative intent to occupy the field relating to AEDs, and therefore preclude a common law duty, the legislature would have needed to enact “’[g]eneral and comprehensive legislation, where course of conduct, parties, things affected, limitations, and exceptions are minutely described.’” I.E. Assocs. v. Safeco Title Ins. Co., 39 Cal. 3d 281, 285 (1985). That is not the case here.

Nevertheless, common law precedent dictates that Target did not have the duty at issue. The most analogous cases are those concerning a business’s duty to take precautionary measures to protect customers from third party criminal activity. The factors used in determining whether a duty exists in that context are (1) the foreseeability of the danger on the business’s premises, and (2) the relative burden that the business would bear in order to take a specific precaution. See, e.g., Ann M. v. Pac. Plaza Shopping Ctr., 6 Cal. 4th 666, 679 (1993). When the burden is nonminimal, those cases have held that there has to be a showing of “heightened” foreseeability in order to find that a duty exists. Id.

Here, the burden is substantial. In addition to the cost of the AEDs themselves, a business must comply with certain obligations set out by the statutes discussed above in order to qualify for immunity from civil liability. Thus, the plaintiffs are required to show that foreseeability was especially high. Here, however, there is no evidence that the incidence of cardiac arrest is higher at Target than other businesses. Neither is there any evidence that the large size of Target stores causes longer lapses before paramedics can reach a customer.

This is a question best left to the legislature because of the multiplicity of facts that bear on the prudence of imposing a duty. For example, the nature of a business’s activities, the relationship of those activities to the risk of a customer’s heart attack, the proximity of the business to emergency medical services, and other factors, need to be considered. Case-by-case determinations of reasonableness based on so many factors would be unwieldy and unpredictable. Additionally, every state appellate court that has previously considered this question has found that a common law duty did not exist.

Concurring Opinion:

The same conclusion could have been reached without relying on cases concerning the duty to protect customers from third-party criminal activity. In those cases, there exists the morally questionable proposition of requiring a business to take precautionary measures to control the intentional criminal acts of third parties. As that is not an issue here, those cases are inapposite, and a heightened showing of foreseeability was not necessary.

Rather, the proper analysis is to use the duty factors outlined in Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108, 113 (1968): foreseeability of the harm, the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury, the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant, and the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved. A balancing of these factors similarly leads to the conclusion that a duty does not exist, and therefore, that this is a question best left to the legislature.

Key Cases:

Verdugo v. Target Corp., 704 F.3d 1044, 1045 (9th Cir. 2012)

Cal. Ass’n of Health Facilities v. Dep’t of Health Servs., 16 Cal. 4th 284, 297 (1997)

Ann M. v. Pac. Plaza Shopping Ctr., 6 Cal. 4th 666, 679 (1993)

I.E. Assocs. v. Safeco Title Ins. Co., 39 Cal. 3d 281, 285 (1985)

Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108, 113 (1968)

Rotolo v. San Jose Sports & Entertainment, LLC, 151 Cal. App. 4th 307 (2007)

Breaux v. Gino’s, Inc., 153 Cal. App. 3d 379 (1984)

Key Statutes:

Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.21

Cal. Gov’t Code § 8455

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1797.196

Cal. Health & Safety Code § 104113

Tags:

certified question, certify a question, Ninth Circuit, Torts, California common law, common law duty of reasonable care, duty to customers, duty to provide medical help, duty to take precautions, duty to provide an AED, duty to purchase and make available an AED, duty factors, foreseeability, foreseeability of danger, economic burden, automated external defibrillator, AED, heart attack, cardiac arrest, injured customer, business, store, big box store, Civil Code section 1714.21 , Government Code section 8455, Health and Safety Code section 1797.196, Health and Safety Code section 104113

Annotated by Michael Fields