R. H. v. TASER International, Inc.
We are extremely proud, along with our co-counsel, John Burton, to be the FIRST attorneys in the country to obtain a products liability verdict against TASER Intl., as a result of the wrongful death of R. H.
In the case of R. H. v. TASER, Intel., et al., we were able to convince a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose) that TASER knew about the potential risks of its Model M26 Electronic Control Device due to prolonged discharges but failed to warn about such risks. In order to do this, we took a slightly different approach which we hope will become more well known in the coming days and months. For over a year and a half, we reviewed all the known research that was available concerning the physiological effects of TASER discharges. Much of that research has to do with direct electrical stimulation of the heart – one theory that many believe explains why people die suddenly while being subjected to TASER discharges. We rejected this theory because the state of the research, in our opinion, is mixed-at-best. Instead, we put forth another theory, which is not as widely known but is supported by medical research – metabolic acidosis. Our position was quite simple. Tasers admittedly cause severe muscle contractions, which cause the muscles to produce lactate or lactic acid. As the acidity of the blood continues to rise, pH drops. If pH drops too far too quickly, cardiac arrest can occur. This is well documented in the medical literature. In fact, we believe this is precisely what happened to R. H. It should also be noted that our jury rejected Excited Delirium as the cause of death (ED is nothing more than a way for police agencies to shift the blame for a person’s death away from their conduct and onto the victim)
Rick Smith, the CEO of TASER, issued a press release suggesting that the Heston jury reached its decision based on sympathy for the family. If so, how does he explain the 85% reduction of compensatory damages? Mr. Smith’s statement is nothing more than spin from TASER. Peter Williamson was the only attorney involved in the case to speak with some of the jurors after the trial. Their decision was well-reasoned and based on a very solid understanding of the facts of our case. The jury was convinced that TASER knew about the risks of prolonged applications (R. H. received 25 total discharges from 3 different devices) but did nothing to warn its customers. As the Jury Foreman put it, TASER could have easily sent warnings to its customers but choose not to do so. This explains the 5.2-million-dollar punitive damage award.
As we told R. H.’s family after the verdict was announced, it is still possible for a David to beat a Goliath in a United States court of law. Once again, JUSTICE prevailed.