A recent federal court decision determined that Taser International is not responsible in the wrongful death of a 38-year-old man.
In August 2004, police responded to a call that a man was “behaving erratically.” When they appeared on the scene, two officers had difficulty subduing the man, and ended up shooting him several times using stun guns made by Taser International. After the man died of cardiac arrest the next morning, doctors discovered that he had medical condition (related to lactic acid in the body) that made him more susceptible to a heart attack.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the man’s family in federal court claimed that Taser International was in part responsible for the 38-year-old’s death, because the company “had a duty to warn” law enforcement officials that repeated use of stun guns could lead to fatal levels of lactic acid – thus triggering cardiac arrest.
The federal district court disagreed with this argument, dismissing the negligence claim against Taser. The family appealed the case to the appellate court.
Earlier this month the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the district court was correct. On review, finding that the medical risk associated with metabolic acidosis and the use of a stun gun was not general medical knowledge in 2004, the court said Taser International could not be held responsible.
In the original wrongful death lawsuit filed, the family had also named the city as a responsible party. The city ended up settling with the family for $225,000.
Source: Business Insurance.com, “Wrongful death suit against Taser dismissed,” 7/12/12.