The Insurance Journal reported a federal jury last week awarded $10 million to the family of the 17-year-old who died after a police officer shocked him with the Taser. The report said the jury found Taser International, the manufacturer of the brand name product, at fault in the March 2008 death of the 17-year-old. Reports said the teenager from Charlotte went into cardiac arrest and died after a police officer fired a Taser twice.
The teenager's family filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the company that's based in Scottsdale, AZ, in March 2010.
As experienced Virginia (VA) wrongful death lawyers, we are concerned about the wider implications of this case. The jury found that Taser International did not provide adequate warning or instructions about the potentially lethal electrical stun gun to Charlotte police, according to court documents, the Insurance Journal reported.
While Taser International claimed the teenager had a heart condition, a medical examiner disagreed in testimony, according to lawyers for the family.
While more and more police forces have equipped themselves with Tasers, including Newport News Police Department, VA, which recently took a delivery of Tasers, safety concerns about their use linger.
But while more forces are using them, questions continue about their safety. In 2005 a heart doctor told the San Francisco Chronicle the stun guns pose a potentially lethal danger to the heart.
"Cardiologists are concerned that 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 San Francisco Chronicle stated.
'But cardiologists are concerned that, in certain cases, the device might also interrupt the rhythm of the human heart, throwing it into a potentially fatal chaotic state known as ventricular fibrillation. Rather than pump blood in sequence through its four chambers, a heart in ventricular fibrillation writhes uncontrollably. It is a common cause of sudden death."
In 2009 CBS reported as many as 70 people have died after being Tasered by the stun guns. In the same year our Virginia (VA) wrongful death attorneys reported on the death of a sword wielding man in Hampton, VA, who was Tasered.
And a 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 as she 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 without adequate safety instructions.