Taser International agreed last month to settle claims from a man who was permanently brain damaged after being shocked with a taser stun gun by police in the USA. It is believed to be the first time the company has settled a product liability case.
The taser gun is also used by certain members of An Garda Sìochana. In 2006 police were called when Stephen Butler, who had been drinking and wasn’t taking his anti psychotic medication, refused to get off a city bus. When he became hostile, the police fired a taser model X26 over his heart to subdue him. Mr. Butler went into cardiac arrest, paramedics revived him 18 minutes later, but only after the lack of oxygen caused him severe brain damage. Mr. Butler now requires full time care.
In Mr. Butler’s legal proceedings he claimed that Taser Inc. knew that its stun guns were dangerous if shot near the heart but trained police officers to do just that.
Taser had repeatedly argued that the devices were safe and that injuries occur only when a person has a pre-existing condition. Both sides of the case pointed to medical studies to support their positions.
Two studies which were done in 2006 found that pigs had abnormal cardiac rhythms or went into fibrillation when tasers were shot near their hearts. Scientists concluded that devices shouldn’t be used near the heart.
Even after the studies were released Taser updated its training materials to instruct officers to “aim for centre body mass” because it would debilitate but not hurt the subject.
This case is only the second case to reach a resolution. In 2008, a US jury found for the family of Robert Heston who died after being stunned by police 27 times. That case is currently under appeal.
Speaking today, Liam Moloney, Product Liability Solicitor in Naas, said, “this is a clear product liability case. The police officers would never have thought that Mr. Butler’s heart would stop. However, Gardaì need to be very careful when using the taser gun as permanent injuries can be caused to victims and the State may be liable for damages claims from injured people”.
If you have been injured with a taser gun you may be entitled to seek compensation from the State or Taser International. To find out more about your rights please contact Liam Moloney, Solicitor, at 045 898000 or simply log onto our website www.moloneysolicitors.ie for further information.