My readers may recall two previous posts relating to use of Tasers (stun guns) to abuse our citizens. On May 29, 2008, I reported on the filing of a $20 million lawsuit against the City of San Jose, CA. On June 9, 2008, I reported on a $6 million jury verdict, also in San Jose, against Taser manufacturer, Taser International, for the family of Robert Heston, a Salinas man who died after being tasered 30 times by police. A federal judge in the Heston case has now ordered Taser International to pay Heston’s attorneys $1.4 million in attorney fees. It is difficult to tell whether the $6 million award has been paid or appealed, but it is obvious that this $1.4 million is an additional award, over and above the original verdict; this makes the total award $7.4 million. Congratulations to the Heston family and their attorneys on their hard fought victory.
According to the article, the case in question is a Products Liability case involving the manufacturer’s (in this case, Taser International) failure to warn police that repeated use of a Taser could result in serious injury or death. Simple and appropriate safety measures and/or simple instructions would prevent many injuries caused by products that can, otherwise, be used safely. A product does not have to be ‘defective’ to be misused, and a company that issues appropriate warnings about potential misuse may not be liable if those warnings are deemed sufficient to put a reasonable user of the product on notice. In this case, either warnings were not given or they were not sufficient. That creates liability, and Mr. Heston paid the ultimate price. Hopefully, this significant award will result in appropriate manufacturer warnings and provide a measure of closure for the Heston family.
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