Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Palestinians Sue Tear Gas Maker

According to Al Fair of Nov. 23, 1992, in December, 1991, the New York based Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit on behalf of nine families of Palestinians killed by tear gas in Israeli occupied Palestine. The suit, Abu Zeinah v. Federal Laboratories, was filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, PA. The plaintiffs claim the manufacturer is liable for knowing its product was being used dangerously by Israel and continued its sales anyway. The judge has already ruled that U.S. companies are liable for damages caused by their products abroad if they know their product is unreasonably dangerous or likely to be misused. Tear gas is banned by the United Nations as part of its ban on chemical warfare.

Tear gas is a potentially lethal chemical substance. Only its concentration determines whether it will be lethal or not.

The reason we are reporting this suit in PLN is because U.S. prison officials routinely use chemical agents, be it mace, tear gas, Capstun, etc., against prisoners, often resulting in serious injury. While the prison officials can, and often are, sued for excessive force in such situations it appears that whole separate cause of action can be filed against the manufacturers of such substances.

Prison officials are almost invariably represented by government lawyers who have no cost incentive to settle or end litigation. Suits against private companies, such as tear gas manufacturers, are different as the manufacturer has to bear the costs of litigation, which come out of its profits. Winning such a suit would add damages and such to the company's expenses. Faced with enough litigation on the matter it is possible that such companies would either withdraw their products from the market or stop selling them to prisoncrats.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login