12/23/2005

Jury rules TASER not liable for deputy's injuries in first case to go to trial

By BETH DeFALCO
Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX- An Arizona jury rejected claims Thursday that Taser International Inc. failed to adequately warn users of its stun guns' potential dangers.

The lawsuit, brought by an injured sheriff's deputy, was the first to go to trial among some three dozen personal injury, wrongful death or excessive use of force lawsuits that have been filed against Scottsdale-based Taser. A handful of other cases have been dismissed.

"We think this is a critical milestone to have won this case," Taser CEO Rick Smith told The Associated Press. "It just doubles our resolve on those other cases."

Retired Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputy Samuel Powers sued the nation's largest stun gun manufacturer after he was injured in a 2002 training exercise. He suffered what doctors testified was a compress fracture in his spine after being shocked with a Taser.

At the time, the sheriff's office required all officers who carried Tasers to experience a Taser shock to help them understand the weapon's paralyzing effect, a rule that has since been dropped. Tasers deliver a 50,000-volt jolt through two barbed darts that can penetrate clothing.

Powers' attorney, John Dillingham, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

During the trial, Dillingham argued that Taser didn't provide adequate warnings and rushed the weapon to market without sufficient medical testing.

The company began selling Tasers to law enforcement in 1998, and more than 8,000 U.S. law-enforcement agencies have since armed their officers with them.

But Tasers also have come under increased scrutiny, blamed for accidental deaths and injuries that have prompted some police departments to reconsider their use.

Taser has consistently denied its products solely are responsible in the deaths, arguing that none have been directly linked to Tasers. The company also contends Tasers have saved thousands of lives, giving police an option short of deadly force when confronted by combative suspects.

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On the Net:

Taser International: http://www.taser.com

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