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U.S. court tackles wrongful death suit in California

Recently, the 9th Circuit Court asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in on the question of whether retailers must carry defibrillators for their customers in the event of a medical emergency such as a heart attack. The case stems from a wrongful death suit by the family of a woman who suffered a heart attack at a Target in Pico Rivera, California while shopping. It took the paramedics several minutes to arrive, and the woman died at the scene. The family alleged that Target did not comply with its common law duty to care for the customers in the store.

The court ruled that California case law does not provide a clear precedent as to whether a corporation is legally required to carry defibrillators for customers who suffer heart attacks on the premises. The 9th circuit court's decision comes after a federal judge in California ruled in favor of Target. One justice on the three-justice panel dissented, writing that the issue could be clearly resolved and that Target had a clear duty to install the defibrillators in its store due to the foreseeability of customers suffering medical emergencies, the minimal burden of providing an AED, and the degree of harm suffered in the absence of an AED.

A person may file a wrongful death lawsuit when there has been an act of negligence towards a person by a party entrusted with that person's care, and the victim of the negligence dies as a result. A civil suit for wrongful death may be brought by an appointed representative of the victim and his or her family.

Anyone who has lost a family member or loved one due to wrongful death is entitled to a just and fair compensation. The family has a right to hold the defendant accountable by seeking a personal injury claim against the defendant for negligence, and they can also be compensated for monetary damages to make up for lost income of the victim. Although a wrongful death suit will not bring a loved one back, it may provide some degree of relief and financial compensation to grieving family members.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Calif. High Court Pulled into Target Liability Case," Tim Hull, Dec. 11, 2012

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U.S. court tackles wrongful death suit in California | Rose, Klein & Marias, LLP