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Ruling upheld in North Carolina teen's wrongful death from Taser

The Taser is a very common tool used by law enforcement. The tool administers an electric shock which helps subdue suspects who resist arrests or threaten officers during an arrest. However, the parents of a North Carolina teen have claimed that the use of a Taser by law enforcement also led to the wrongful death of their son.

Their son, who was only 17, died in 2008 after he was shot with a Taser by police. According to reports, the boy was terminated from his job and he became upset. Police were called to the scene where the teen was fired to handle the situation. But in doing so, an officer used a Taser to subdue the teen. The Taser was shot toward the teen's chest, where the darts were embedded. The officer then held down the trigger and unleashed an electrical current through the teen's body. Thirty-seven seconds later, the teen dropped to the ground. The officer administered another short jolt while he was on the ground.

At that moment, the boy became unresponsive and emergency crews were not able to revive him. This type of incident is not uncommon in the U.S. Similar incidents have caused other suspects to suffer serious or fatal injuries after being shot with a Taser. Despite the dangerous risks the Taser can pose, the device's manufacturer has rarely been held accountable in any of these incidents.

The family filed a lawsuit against the maker of the device, Taser International, Inc., arguing that their son suffered fatal injuries from device. The family also accused the company of not properly training police officers on how to safely use the Taser, which could also increase one's risk of becoming injured by the product. The family's case went to trial and a jury awarded the victim's family $10 million in damages. However, this settlement was recently reduced to less than $5 million after Taser International challenged the verdict.

Although the family's settlement has been reduced, the court did uphold previous rulings in the case that the Taser can cause cardiac sudden death when the darts are shot at the chest. The judge also concluded that the company did not warn law enforcement of that fact. Despite this most recent ruling, Taser International plans to appeal the decision, arguing that law enforcement was responsible for the teen's death, not the Taser.

Source: NBC Los Angeles, "Judge Upholds Verdict That Taser Killed Teen Suspect," Patrick Healy, March 29, 2012

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