Chris Boutet, National Post
June 11, 2008
With a string of 69 straight trial victories under its belt, it’s safe to say that Taser International – makers of the controversial stun guns used by police forces across Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere – is not a company that is accustomed to the sting of defeat.
But stung they finally were last Friday as, after having swatted away 45 previous wrongful death or injury lawsuits and even convincing an Ohio judge to reverse autopsy results that found Tasers at least partially contributed to three deaths, the company was found liable in the death of 40-year-old Robert Heston Jr. by a federal jury in San Jose and ordered to pay the family more than $6-million in damages.
From the Monetrey County Herald, via Wired blog Danger Room:
An autopsy found that Heston died from a combination of methamphetamine intoxication, an enlarged heart due to long-term drug abuse, and Taser shocks.
Heston’s parents, Betty Lou and Robert Sr., and their daughter sued Taser International. They alleged the company failed to properly warn users that its product could be dangerous, and even lethal, when used repeatedly in conjunction with chest compressions and on people under the influence of drugs…
The six-person jury found that Arizona-based stun-gun manufacturer Taser International should have more effectively warned police that Taser shocks were potentially dangerous. Salinas police testified during the trial that they were not warned that the shocks could be dangerous.
Plaintiffs attorney John Burton said the verdict is precedent setting, noting that this was the first time a jury found Tasers are dangerous when used too often…
Taser executives responded to the court loss by calling it a victory, releasing a company statement titled “Jury Finds Extended Taser Device Application 15 Percent Responsible for Arrest Related Death.” But as New York Times blog The Lede noted yesterday, the company’s stock nonetheless dropped 12% in trading Monday and Tuesday, with one analyst telling Barron’s that “investors will assume heightened operating risk in the Taser model in the short term.”
The news of Taser’s court loss comes as a B.C. commission prepares to release its report on the RCMP’s use of Tasers tomorrow. Commission chairman Paul Kennedy’s report will then appear at the Braidwood inquiry into Taser use in B.C. on June 25 to explain his findings and field questions.
Full Story | See Also: Tasering violated suspect’s rights, judge rules | RCMP willing to change Taser policy, inquiry told | Tasers pose risk to heart, MDs testify | ‘Peel and Stick’ Tasers Electrify Riot Control | Canadian police have been brainwashed, Taser inquiry told | Mounties censor Taser report | Taser group’s chair to defend stun guns at public inquiry | Chicago study calls Taser’s safety claims into question | Officer injured in Taser demonstration