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California's top court says Target not required to carry in-store defibrillators

By Jennifer Chaussee

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - California's top court on Monday unanimously ruled that large retailers are not required to provide automated external defibrillators (AEDs) inside their stores, deciding in favor of Target Corp in a wrongful death lawsuit brought after a shopper's sudden death.

The Supreme Court in California dismissed the argument that the U.S. retailer fell under a state health code statute that requires gyms and other "health studios" to make available the life-saving machines.

"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," the six-judge panel wrote in an opinion on Monday.

The court's decision was a defeat for the mother and brother of 49-year-old Mary Ann Verdugo, who died of a sudden heart attack while shopping with her at a Target store in 2008 Pico Rivera, California, a city near Los Angeles.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged the company violated a common law duty to provide first aid to the large volume of customers that frequent its California stores daily, noting that AEDs retail on its website for $1,200.

"The 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," the Verdugo's complaint said.

The California Supreme Court upheld decisions by a U.S appeals court and lower courts that all ruled against the Verdugo family.

"The safety and security of our guests and team members is our top priority and we are pleased with the California Supreme Court decision," Target said in a statement.

(Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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