Court Orders TASER International, Inc. to Face Trial in Brain Injury Case

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Judge J. Jeffrey Almquist of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court today denied TASER International, Inc.'s attempt to end a lawsuit arising from an incident that rendered a Watsonville, California, man permanently brain damaged following three shocks to the man's chest from one of TASER's electric control devices ("ECDs"). Trial has been set in the case for August 2, 2010.

substantially immaterial and irrelevant to the substance of the motion and created unnecessary time and expense for the parties and the court

Judge J. Jeffrey Almquist of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court today denied TASER International, Inc.'s attempt to end a lawsuit arising from an incident that rendered a Watsonville, California, man permanently brain damaged following three shocks to the man's chest from one of TASER's electric control devices ("ECDs"). Trial has been set in the case for August 2, 2010.

On October 7, 2006, at approximately 4:15 p.m., plaintiff Steven Butler, a 48-year-old man with a history of mental illness, boarded a Santa Cruz Metro bus in Watsonville, California, while under the influence of alcohol. The driver told Butler to get off the bus, and he refused. The police were called. A Watsonville officer shot Butler in the chest with his TASER Model X26 ECD, and discharged it three times, subjecting Butler to 18 seconds of electrical current.

After the third discharge, Butler was limp and unresponsive. Paramedics responded quickly, determined that he was in cardiac arrest, and resuscitated his heartbeat. As a consequence of his heart stopping for as long as 18 minutes, however, Butler suffered severe brain damage and is now permanently disabled.

In his lawsuit, Butler v. TASER, International, Inc., Santa Cruz Superior Court Case No. CV 161436, Butler alleges that the electrical current from the TASER ECD captured his heart causing him to experience an abnormal heart rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation ("VF"), a highly disorganized heart rhythm which results in unconsciousness within 10 to 20 seconds, and death within minutes unless a normal rhythm is restored by an electrical shock from a defibrillator. Butler alleges that TASER misrepresented the cardiac safety of its ECDs to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and even the world, by claiming that there was no risk associated with shots to the chest even though TASER knew such risks existed. In September 2009, TASER finally warned police officers to avoid firing at a person's chest.

TASER filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in an attempt to end the litigation, asking the court to find, as a matter of law, that ECDs do not cause cardiac arrest, and that TASER had no duty to warn users of its products about such a risk.

In denying TASER's Motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Almquist found the evidence sufficient for a jury to determine: 1) whether the TASER Model X26 caused Butler's cardiac arrest, 2) whether TASER is strictly liable for failing to warn of cardiac risks associated with its ECDs, 3) whether TASER intentionally deceived police officers concerning the cardiac safety of its ECDs, 4) whether TASER negligently misrepresented the cardiac safety of ECDs, and 5) whether TASER should pay punitive damages based on fraud and malice.

Judge Almquist also found that a portion of TASER's motion was "substantially immaterial and irrelevant to the substance of the motion and created unnecessary time and expense for the parties and the court" and was filed in "bad-faith." He ordered TASER to pay plaintiffs' counsel the sum of $15,000 in attorneys' fees to compensate them for the time spent responding to TASER's motion.

A copy of the Court's order and hearing transcript can be obtained by contacting Peter M. Williamson, Esq. at (818) 226-5700.

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John Burton

Peter M. Williamson
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