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Shapiro & Appleton

Family of North Carolina Teen Killed by Taser Shock Awarded $10 Million

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The family of a teenager from Charlotte, North Carolina (NC), has been awarded $10 million in a wrongful death lawsuit after he was twice shocked with a police Taser. The award was made against the manufacturer of the equipment when a jury found that Taser International did not provide adequate warning or instructions about the potentially lethal electrical stun gun, the Insurance Journal reported.

The teen's family filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the company that's based in Scottsdale, AZ, in March 2010. Taser International claimed the 17 year old had a heart condition, which caused the death. A medical examiner testifying at trial disagreed with that statement.

As experienced Virginia wrongful death lawyers, we are concerned about the wider implications of this case. Growing numbers of police forces have equipped themselves with Tasers, including Newport News, VA, Police Department, which recently took a delivery of Tasers. And last year I reported police in Chesapeake, VA, had joined their colleagues in Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach, in using Tasers. But while more forces are using them, questions about their safety linger.

In 2005 a heart doctor told the San Francisco Chronicle  electric tun guns pose a potentially lethal danger to the heart. "Tasers might interrupt the rhythm of the human heart, throwing it into a potentially fatal chaotic state known as ventricular fibrillation. When 50,000 volts of electricity from a Taser surge across the body, it can instantly incapacitate a person -- more safely than a blow from a police baton or a blast of pepper spray, its manufacturer contends," the newspaper reported.

In 2009 CBS reported as many as 70 people have died after being shocked with stun guns. In the same year, our Virginia wrongful death attorneys reported on the death of a sword-wielding man in Hampton, VA, who was tased. Another case in Norfolk that claimed a police officer used excessive force when he used his Taser on a mentally disabled woman because she would not turn down the radio she used while exercising with a hula hoop was settled for $65,000.

This latest case reveals that Tasers, seen by police officers as an alternative to deadly force, can be just that when safety instructions are not adequate.

DM


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