Taser International has always defended the safety of its product. They have done such a good job of this that they have successfully won 40+ wrongful death cases.
In a stunning decision, however, a federal court in San Jose has found Taser International 15% responsible for the death of Robert Heston Jr. in February, 2005. He went into cardiac arrest after being tased up to 30 times according to the plaintiffs attorney. The jury decided that his death was due to “methamphetamine intoxication, an enlarged heart due to long-term drug abuse, and Taser shocks.” The family was awarded $6 million in punitive and compensatory damages.
Taser’s stock plummetted 12 percent as a result of the decision. Critics of the company are hopeful that Taser will begin issuing warnings about its products safety, or that police departments will be a bit more cautious in their use. However, the Salinas police chief had this to say to the Monterey Herald:
Salinas Police Chief Daniel Ortega said his department wouldn’t make any major changes in its Taser use and training procedures, despite the verdict finding that Tasers can be dangerous. Ortega said he was “elated” that his department was exonerated and called his officers “heroes” in the incident. He expressed doubt about the verdict against Taser International and said he expected the company to appeal the decision.
“I have absolutely no intention of not using Tasers,” Ortega said. “It’s not going to change a whole lot.”
Ortega said he would keep trying to purchase Taser cams, which videotape incidents when Tasers are used, and suggested that if the officers had been equipped with the Taser cams the trial never would have occurred.