From The Charlotte Business Journal
Taser International Inc. must pay $10 million to the family of a Charlotte teenager who died after being shocked by a Charlotte policeman.
A federal court jury returned the verdict for wrongful death of 17-year-old Darryl Turner, who collapsed and died in a Food Lion grocery store in northeast Charlotte on March 20, 2008. An alleged dispute between Turner and his manager led the policeman to use the Taser, striking Turner in the chest. He went into cardiac arrest and died.
Lawyers for Turner’s family convinced the jury that the manufacturer knew but failed to warn its customers the product could cause heart problems if administered near the heart. The company’s animal studies demonstrated the risk, says Charles Everage, a Charlotte attorney who helped represent Turner’s parents, Devoid Turner and Tammy Lou Fontenot.
Taser International’s attorneys were unsuccessful in convincing the jury that Turner had heart problems and contributed to his death through disruptive behavior and drug possession. The company also says independent studies show no risk of cardiac arrest if the device strikes the chest.
“This was a sad and tragic incident, and our hearts go out to Mr. Turner’s family,” Doug Klint, president and general counsel at Taser International, says in a press release. “We can certainly understand how the jury felt deep compassion for Mr. Turner’s family, and how this compassion may have overwhelmed the scientific evidence presented in this case.”
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company (NASDAQ:TASR) intends to appeal the verdict.
The lawsuit was heard in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. District Judge Robert Conrad presided.
Taser International says the verdict amount will be offset by a $730,000 settlement from the city of Charlotte and $40,000 settlement for a worker’s compensation claim. About $6 million of the $9.23 million net award will be covered by the company’s insurance if the verdict withstands the appeals process.
Everage notes the verdict contained no award for punitive damages. “This is 100 percent compensatory damages,” he says.