Taser International, Inc., manufactures a product commonly known as a “ taser.” Tasers have prongs or cords that emit high voltage electrical currents that, when they touch a person’s body, immobilize the person. Tasers are often used by police forces to subdue criminal suspects. Usually, because the amperage of the taser is very low, no serious or permanent injury is inflicted. Darryl Wayne Turner, age seventeen, who the police believed was engaging in a dispute and refused to comply with the police officer’s directives, was shot with a taser by an officer. The taser hit Turner near the chest area and immobilized him. However, the taser shock caused Turner to suffer cardiac arrest, from which he died. Turner had been shot with a model X26 taser made by Taser. Evidence showed that the officer used the taser as he had been trained and in compliance with the manual that accompanied the X26. The X26 taser had been subject to several academic studies that showed that the device posed a risk of ventricular fibrillation, a cause of cardiac arrest, especially when the electrical current from the taser was applied near the subject’s heart. Taser did not warn users to avoid deploying the taser’s electrical current in proximity to the heart. Turner’s mother, Tammy Lou Fontenot, sued Taser for product liability based on negligence to recover damages, alleging that Taser failed to warn of the dangers of deploying the X26 taser to a suspect’s chest. Was Taser negligent in failing to warn the police of the dangers of discharging the Taser X26 at a suspect’s chest? Fontenot v. Taser International, Inc., 736 F. 3d 318, 2013 U. S. App. Lexis 23510 (United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 2013)
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