Over the past several years the use of taser guns by police
officers has increased exponentially. Thousands of people have been injured
and over 300 have died after being shocked with police tasers. Numerous wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against both police, that use tasers, and taser
manufacturers, but until now taser makers have never been found to liable in any
of the cases. On Friday, a California jury found taser manufacturer, Taser
International, to be partially responsible for the death of Robert Heston Jr.,
who tragically died after being zapped five time times by Salinas police in
The U.S. District Court in San Jose determined Friday that
Taser International Inc. failed to adequately inform users of the effects of
sustained use of the electric shocks. The city of Salinas was cleared in the
ruling. The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office had already cleared the
Salinas police officers involved in the incident.
The jury awarded Heston’s family one million dollars in
compensatory damages and another five million in punitive damages; however, the
jury also found that Heston was 85 percent responsible for his own death and
therefore the family will only receive 15 percent of the awarded amount,
provided that no appeal is filed.
This decision is the first of its kind involving tasers and
taser makers. As of April 14, 68 wrongful death lawsuits had been filed against
Taser International. If juries start holding manufacturers responsible for deaths
that are associated with the use of tasers it could be very troublesome next
few years for taser makers.