Monday, June 23, 2014

Verdugo v. Target Corp.

Common law in California: (…) 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 automated (or automatic) external defibrillator (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 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 “as a general rule, ‘unless 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, ‘there is a presumption that a statute does not, by implication, repeal the common law. Repeal by implication is recognized only where there is no rational basis for harmonizing two potentially conflicting laws.’ ”  (Ibid.) 
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 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:  “No 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).
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.’    ‘General and comprehensive legislation, where course of conduct, parties, things affected, limitations and exceptions are minutely described, indicates a legislative intent that the statute should totally supersede and replace the common law dealing with the subject matter.’ ”
(…) 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 ‘saying that a different rule for the particular facts should have been written by the Legislature.’ They are simply saying that the common law ‘rule’ coexists with the statutory ‘rule.’ ”
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), 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 or suffer an illness while on the business’s premises, including “undertaking 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.).
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 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.  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.
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, 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].)  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. Olsher, supra, 41 Cal.4th at pp. 1213-1214.). 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.
For purposes of resolving the issue before us in this case, however, we 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. 
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.
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”];
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. (Cal. S. Ct., S207313, 23.06.2014, Verdugo v. Target Corp.).

Notion de Common law en droit californien : le contenu de la Common law est établi dans cette affaire principalement sur la base de l’analyse d’un Restatement of Torts et sur le contenu de la jurisprudence.
Les dispositions topiques du Code de santé et de sécurité, et du Code civil, n’établissent aucune obligation, pour le propriétaire ou le manager d’un immeuble, d’installer dans les lieux un défibrillateur externe automatique (AED). Mais ces dispositions sont muettes s’agissant de la question distincte de savoir si et dans quelles circonstances la Common law de Californie contient pour un établissement commercial un devoir dû à sa clientèle d’acquérir et rendre disponible un AED, obligation qui serait basée sur le devoir général de diligence prévu par dite Common law.
Il est établi en droit californien que les obligations légales d’un établissement commercial envers ses clients et envers les tiers peuvent découler aussi bien de la loi au sens formel que de la Common law. Selon la Common law, l’existence et l’étendue d’un devoir de diligence raisonnable à charge d’un individu ou d’une entité juridique dépendent d’une variété de circonstances.
La jurisprudence californienne reconnaît que de manière générale, sauf disposition expresse contraire, une loi ne doit pas être interprétée comme modifiant le contenu de la Common law, mais doit être interprétée de manière à éviter des conflits avec elle. Par conséquent, il est présumé qu’une loi n’abroge pas la Common law. Une abrogation implicite n’est reconnue que s’il n’existe aucune base rationnelle pour harmoniser deux règles potentiellement en conflit.
Par exemple, dans sa décision Coulter v. Superior Court, la Cour Suprême de Californie a jugé que la Common law impliquait la responsabilité d’un hôte qui fournit de l’alcool à un invité manifestement en état d’ébriété pour un dommage causé ensuite par l’invité en question, si l’hôte savait que son invité entendait prendre le volant après consommation. Cette disposition de la Common law a par la suite été expressément abrogée par le Code civil de Californie.
De même, dans une décision rendue en 2008, la Cour Suprême de Californie a jugé qu’une disposition légale accordait l’immunité à une personne qui procurait une aide médicale d’urgence, l’immunité étant limitée à l’aide médicale d’urgence, et non à une aide non médicale urgente, conformément à ce que prévoit la Common law. En réponse, le législateur de l’état a amendé la disposition légale, qui prévoit désormais que l’immunité comprend également l’aide apportée en cas d’urgence non médicale.
Par ailleurs, la loi californienne sur les AED n’implique pas abrogation de la Common law de l’état qui pourrait s’appliquer en matière d’AED. En effet, la règle générale est que la loi ne remplace pas la Common law à moins qu’il n’apparaisse que l’intention du législateur était de couvrir l’entier du domaine réglementé, autrement dit que l’intention du législateur était d’occuper le terrain dans sa totalité. Une législation générale qui décrit minutieusement le mode de conduite, les parties, l’objet de la réglementation, les limitations et exceptions, est présumée remplacer la Common law en la matière.
Lorsqu’un Tribunal accorde un remède déduit de la Common law nonobstant l’existence d’un autre remède prévu par la loi, le Tribunal ne dit pas que le législateur s’est trompé, il dit simplement que la règle prévue par la Common law coexiste avec la règle déduite du droit édicté.
Il s’agit maintenant d’analyser l’étendue du devoir de diligence raisonnable déduit de la Common law qui est dû par une entité commerciale envers ses clients. Ce devoir inclut-t-il une obligation d’acquérir et de rendre disponible un AED ? Il convient de débuter l’analyse en rappelant le principe bien établi par la jurisprudence californienne, prévoyant qu’une personne physique ou morale n’a pas l’obligation selon la Common law d’aider une personne à laquelle elle n’a pas porté préjudice (la règle générale d’absence d’obligation de porter secours, telle que décrite dans le 2è Restatement sur la responsabilité civile (torts)). Mais une règle différente est applicable en Common law s’agissant du devoir à charge d’une entité commerciale envers ses clients, dans le périmètre de l’entreprise. Du fait des relations spéciales entre une entité commerciale et ses clients, la jurisprudence californienne a reconnu qu’une entité commerciale peut avoir une obligation, déduite de la Common law, d’agir raisonnablement pour protéger ou aider des clients victimes d’un dommage corporel ou d’une maladie pendant qu’ils se trouvaient dans le périmètre de l’entreprise. Agir raisonnablement implique la mise en œuvre de mesures de secours relativement simples (cf. à nouveau les commentaires à ce sujet dans le 2è Restatement sur la responsabilité civile).
En l’espèce, la Cour Suprême de Californie juge que la chaîne de magasins Target n’a pas d’obligation déduite de la Common law d’équiper ses magasins d’un AED. Le devoir de diligence raisonnable prévu par la Common law de l’état de Californie ne s’étend pas aussi loin.
Pour ce qui la concerne, la Section 314A du Restatement Second of Torts regroupe le devoir d’apporter de l’aide à un client malade ou blessé et le devoir de protéger un client contre un risque déraisonnable de subir un dommage corporel, reflétant le fait que dans les deux situations l’obligation due au client découle de la relation entre les parties et existe même si l’entreprise n’a pas causé elle-même le dommage corporel ou la maladie en question. La Cour Suprême de Californie, dans sa décision Delgado, qui impliquait l’étendue du devoir d’un entrepreneur, déduit de la Common law, de protéger un client contre un acte criminel d’un tiers (ici un assault), a reconnu la similarité des deux situations précitées et, se fondant sur une décision d’une cour d’appel de l’état, a repris la notion de « mesures relativement simples » à prendre par l’entrepreneur pour satisfaire à son devoir.
En considérant l’étendue du devoir, il convient de distinguer (1) le devoir déduit de la Common law, à charge de l’entrepreneur, de prendre des mesures de précaution avant la survenance d’un dommage corporel ou d’une maladie, à la lumière de la prévisibilité de la survenance de tels événements, et (2) le devoir déduit de la Common law pour l’entrepreneur d’assister un client dans le cadre d’un dommage corporel survenu ou d’une maladie en cours dans le périmètre de l’entreprise. Dans la présente affaire, le point (2) n’est pas litigieux. Reste donc à examiner ce qu’il en est du point (1) : la question revient à se demander si Target a le devoir déduit de la Common law de prendre la mesure de précaution consistant à acquérir et à mettre à disposition un AED en prévision d’une urgence médicale, à la lumière de la possibilité de la survenance dans le futur d’une telle urgence médicale dans le périmètre de l’entreprise. En évaluant si une entreprise a l’obligation de mettre en œuvre des mesures de précaution pour protéger ses clients contre une potentielle activité criminelle de tiers, la jurisprudence californienne a considéré en priorité certains facteurs, notamment : (1) le degré de prévisibilité que le danger se concrétise en les lieux de l’entreprise, et (2) la charge que représente pour l’entreprise la mise en place d’une mesure de précaution particulière.
Si la mise en place d’une mesure de précaution est onéreuse au lieu de représenter une charge minimale, la jurisprudence a jugé qu’il n’est pas approprié pour les Tribunaux de reconnaître ou d’imposer un devoir déduit de la Common law de mettre en place la mesure, sauf si une prévisibilité élevée de la survenance du danger est démontrée. S’il n’est ainsi pas approprié pour les Tribunaux de reconnaître ou d’imposer un tel devoir dans ces circonstances, le législateur reste bien entendu compétent pour reconnaître et imposer. Le législateur est en effet mieux à même de se prononcer à ce sujet qu’un jury appliquant le critère du caractère raisonnable en statuant dans un cas particulier. Ces considérations applicables en matière de mesures de précautions contre des activités criminelles peuvent être reprises pour résoudre la présente affaire : ainsi, la Common law n’impose pas à une entreprise de prendre des mesures de précaution de nature médicale lorsque ces mesures sont onéreuses ou difficiles à mettre en œuvre, sauf si un degré de probabilité élevé de réalisation du risque médical peut être démontré. Par conséquent, la Cour Suprême de Californie juge ici que la Common law de l’état n’impose pas à des entreprises comme Target d’équiper ses magasins d’un AED, s’agissant d’une mesure qui doit être considérée comme trop contraignante pour les entreprises concernées (équiper les magasins, entraîner le personnel à la manipulation et aux mesures de réanimation, veiller à avoir sur place du personnel entraîné, etc.), cela en l’absence d’une prévisibilité aggravée d’arrêts cardiaques soudains ou de risques aggravés de décès.

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