No Common Law Duty To Make Defibrillators Available To Invitees In California

The Ninth Circuit recently certified a question to the California Supreme Court on whether the California common law duty of reasonable care owed to on-site business customers includes an obligation to obtain and make available on the premises an automated external defibrillator (AED) for use in medical emergencies.  The case arose after a shopper experienced a sudden cardiac arrest and died before the paramedics arrived.  The store did not have an AED.  The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held that the store owner did not have a common law duty to maintain an AED onsite, but the Ninth Circuit determined that because California law did not squarely answer the question, it was appropriate to certify the question to the California Supreme Court.  The California Supreme Court issued an opinion finding that California law imposed no such common law duty and the Ninth Circuit thus affirmed the district court’s opinion last week.  U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson, however, wrote separately from the court’s per curiam opinion to express the opinion that he hopes retail store owners will “recognize their moral obligation to make AEDs available for use in a medical emergency” even though no common law duty to do so exists in California according to the California Supreme Court.

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