Taser International Says It Changed Preferred Target Area Not for Safety But To Avoid Giving Plaintiffs Lawyers a Chance to Sue

TASER Training Bulletin 15.0 Regarding Medical Research Update and Revised Warnings, released on October 12, 2009, removed a persons chest from the preferred target area for the 50,000-volt weapon. The bulletin said that hitting a suspect in the chest from the stun guns could cause an “adverse cardiac event.” It marks the first time the company has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the use of Tasers.

But three days later, Taser International released an addendum to its training bulletin stating that its recommendation has less to do with safety and more to do with effective risk management for law enforcement agencies that is that since (Taser International claims) heart attacks often occurs in arrest situation without the suspect being shocked, why give a plaintiffs personal injury lawyer an excuse to bring a lawsuit by shooting a taser probe into the suspects chest. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming an estimated 325,000 lives each year.

Researchers have concluded that a close distance between the ECD dart and the heart is the primary factor in determining whether an electronic control device (ECD) will affect the heart. So if a suspect has a heart attack after the 50,000-volt jolt, beware the following scenario, says Taser International: Should Sudden Cardiac Arrest occur in an arrest situation involving a TASER electronic control device (ECD) discharge to the chest area plaintiff attorneys will likely file an excessive use of force claim against the law enforcement agency and officer and try to allege that the TASER ECD played a role in the arrest related death by causing ventricular fibrillation (VF), an arrhythmia that can be fatal without intervention.

Critics of tasers say Taser Internationals advisory lends credence to their contention that the weapons are dangerous. Taser International seems to have realized that its advisory opened the door to trouble, and issued its the suspect was going to have a heart attack anyway addendum to try to quell the uproar.

Taser International also beneficently pointed out that It is important to note that the preferred target zone does not mean that other areas are prohibited. (emphasis in original)” Interestingly, the training bulletin pointed out that The primary risk of serious injury or death during ECD deployment is risk related to falls. Users should be reminded to avoid deploying ECDs on persons on elevated platforms or other places where a fall can be more injurious. New York City Police Department guidelines prohibit employing Tasers “in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface.”

But on September 24, 2008, Imam Morales, 35, a psychiatric patient, was in a standoff with police outside his Bedford-Stuyvesant building. Morales was standing on a metal security gate container, naked and swinging a fluorescent lightbulb. A Taser gun fired at Morales immobilized him and his head struck the sidewalk after falling 10 feet. He died a short time later. No air bag was in place to break his fall The police officer who gave the command to fire the Taser, Michael Pigott, committed suicide on the day of Moraless funeral. Pigotts wife is suing The City of New York in Brooklyn Supreme Court for the police department having thrown him under the bus causing him to be humiliated, distraught, depressed and fearful of being criminally prosecuted and incarcerated.

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