A federal court jury in Charlotte, North Carolina returned a multi-million dollar verdict against Taser International for the death of a 17 year old teen after the police had used a Taser on him during a dispute in a store. The boy collapsed in the store and died shortly thereafter.
The family's lawyers presented evidence that the Taser can cause heart problems if administered near the heart. The company's animal studies showed this risk, but Taser did not warn users of this potential danger. Taser claimed that independent studies showed that its product was not dangerous if administered to the chest. Taser also defended the case by claiming that the victim had a pre-existing heart condition. The manufacturer emphasized that the victim was acting disruptively and had drugs on his possession at the time of this incident.
As in any product liability case, the issue focuses on the product and the jury was correct to zero in on whether the company had a duty to warn of this risk. The Taser gun is designed to be used by police when a suspect becomes unruly and may pose a threat to the police. The victim's behavior is not relevant to whether the product was defective due to inadequate warnings. Apparently, Taser believed that if they blamed this incident on the victim's bad behavior, they could avoid responsibility. The jury obviously focused on the product in rendering its verdict.