Taser International loses first liability lawsuit
The winning streak for the arrogant stun-gun manufacturer is over.
A San Jose, California, jury yesterday said Taser had failed to warn police in Salinas, California, that prolonged exposure to electric shock from the device could cause a risk of cardiac arrest. The jury awarded $1 million in compensatory damages and $5.2 million in punitive damages to the estate of Robert Heston, 40, and his parents. The jury cleared the police officers of any liability.
…“I think Taser’s going to have to rethink its litigation strategy and its warning policies,” Burton said. The jury awarded $5 million in punitive damages to Heston’s parents and $200,000 in punitives to his estate.
Heston died on Feb. 20, 2005, after his father had called Salinas police because his son was “acting strangely,” and seemed to be on drugs, according to the lawsuit complaint. Salinas police shot Heston multiple times with the stun-gun, continuing to discharge their Tasers into him until he stopped moving, the lawsuit claims.
Heston went into cardiac arrest and died, his family said.
Taser International had boasted that it had never lost a lawsuit. This verdict may be a change in that tide. More after the jump. However, it’s not as if the device has fallen out of favor with law enforcement agencies; it was just announced that the NYPD (with 36K officers is the nation’s largest police force) will expand its use of the stun gun.
Starting Wednesday, thousands of police sergeants will begin carrying electronic stun guns on their belts. The NYPD has used Tasers since 1984, but policy called for sergeants to store the stun guns in their trunks while patrolling, rather than strapping the weapons to their hips.
“They were a little too cumbersome,” Browne explained. He said older Tasers were about the size and weight of a large flashlight and were less essential than other items police carry.
About 3,500 uniformed sergeants and other supervisors on patrol duty will be issued Tasers, costing about $500 each.