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Colorado TASER Suit Permitted To Proceed

By Brandon Sample

U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer has denied a motion for summary judgment filed by TASER in a product liability suit surrounding the death of a Colorado man.

On August 4, 2006, Ryan Wilson died after Boulder County Deputies shot Wilson with a TASER on his left side and in the back of his head and neck. An autopsy later showed that Wilson had hypoplastic coronary artery disease and myocardial bridging near his heart.
Wilson’s estate sued TASER arguing that its X26 TASER device was defective, and that TASER had failed to provide law enforcement with adequate warnings about the device.
TASER moved for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiffs could not show causation between any alleged product defect associated with the X26 TASER and Wilson’s death. For instance, TASER claimed that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that the TASER, after connecting to Wilson’s body, “deliver[ed] electricity to [Wilson’s] body.” TASER also argued that it was impossible that the TASER caused Wilson’s death because TASERS are non-lethal weapons. Judge Bremmer rejected both arguments.

With respect to TASER’s claim that the X26 did not deliver electricity to Wilson’s body, Judge Bremmer held that TASER was trying “to have its cake and eat it too.” On the one hand, TASER claimed the X26 delivered no current, yet in the next breath TASER said the device “functioned as intended” when it “incapacitated Wilson.”

“How else the TASER incapacitated Mr. Wilson other than by the electrical charge is not clear,” Judge Bremmer wrote. Based on TASER’s conflicting representations alone, Judge Bremmer held that there was enough evidence to send the issue to the jury.

Judge Bremmer also rejected TASER’s argument that it was impossible for the TASER to have caused Wilson’s death, holding that there was enough evidence that it did. TASER had attempted to undermine this conclusion by arguing that the sequence of events--the deploying of the TASER, Wilson freezing up in response, and then falling to the ground--was not relevant to the cause of Wilson’s heart attack.

But this sequence was relevant, Judge Bremmer concluded, rejecting outright TASER’s claim that “the default assumption is that TASERs cannot cause cardiac arrest, not only as a matter of science [. . .], but as a matter of law, somehow barring consideration of otherwise reliable evidence supporting causation.”

Judge Bremmer’s findings are the first against TASER. See: Wilson v. City of Lafayett, No. 1:07-CV-018440PAB-KLM (D. Col. 2010).

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Related legal case

Wilson v. City of Lafayett