In February 2005, police officers shocked Robert C. Heston with a Taser weapon for 75 seconds, causing cardiac arrest. Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a jury's finding that Taser International, Inc., should have warned of the dangers involved.
Tasers send a stream of electricity that incapacitates a victim's neuromuscular function. Police use them to neutralize a threat non-lethally. However, past reports indicate patterns of Taser misuse.
On the day of the incident, Heston's father called the cops when his son was acting erratically. Heston was tased, fell into cardiac arrest, and was taken off of life support the following day.
This is the first case that has found Taser Inc. liable for injury or death due to its product. Prior to this, Taser has successfully argued that its weapon is safe if used properly. But on June 7, 2008, a California District Court ruled Taser should have known that "prolonged exposure may pose a risk of cardiac arrest." Furthermore, its risk warnings were inadequate.
Originally, damages were approximately $6.4 million. However, the jury believed Heston was 85% responsible for the incident, so the figure was reduced to $153,150. The Appellate Court then reduced this to $150,000.
In 2008, Amnesty International issued a report detailing the abuse of Taser use by the police. Amnesty "linked 334 deaths to the use of Taser guns between 2001 and August 2008… 90% of the Taser deaths examined involved people who were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat to the officers. A large number of the fatalities involved misuse of the weapons, including multiple Taser shocks or exposing suspects to prolonged shocks."
If you would like more information about how negligence and accident cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions, I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.