Zapping Taser: The Lawsuits

While Heston plays out—the plaintiffs are fighting for attorneys’ fees—Taser International still faces about 40 lawsuits against it alleging wrongful death or personal injury. Five of those have 2009 trial dates, the first beginning in March, according to Taser’s latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A brief summary of the upcoming cases:

Bolander v. Taser International, Inc. et al
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach)
Trial scheduled for March 2, 2009

Plaintiffs allege Timothy Bolander, 31, was shocked with a Taser ten times “for a consecutive total of 56 seconds” on Dec. 23, 2004, by Delray Beach, Fla. police. Bolander had a variety of drugs in his system and ruptured bags of cocaine in his stomach when he was confronted by police, according to news reports. His estranged wife had called police after Bolander showed up at their home despite a restraining order. He died that night.

Elvira Teran et al v. County of Monterey et al
U.S. District Court, California Northern District (San Jose)
Trial scheduled for March 18, 2009

Plaintiffs allege Jaime Teran Coronel, 27, was shocked with a Taser "at least twice" on Jan. 24, 2006, by Monterey County Sheriff's deputies in Castroville, Calif. Coronel suffered cardiac arrest, and on Jan. 31 he was taken off life support. The coroner concluded that methamphetamine was the primary cause of death, according to news reports. The same judge in Heston, Judge James Ware, presides.

Lee et al v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee et al
U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville)
Trial scheduled for April 21, 2009

Plaintiffs allege Patrick Lee, 21, was shocked with a Taser 19 times on Sept. 22, 2005, by Nashville police. Lee was high on drugs and had been kicked out of a nightclub when confronted by police, according to news reports. His death two days later sparked a police review of its Taser policy and restricted its use.

Rosa et al v. City of Seaside et al
U.S. District Court, California Northern District (San Jose)
Trial scheduled for July 17, 2009

Plaintiffs allege Michael Rosa, 38, was shocked with a Taser “repeatedly” on Aug. 29, 2004, by “at least two [police] officers” in Del Rey Oaks, Calif. Rosa, high on meth, died that night. The plaintiffs’ attorneys are the attorneys from Heston – Burton and Williamson.

Alejandra Guerrero et al v. City of Simi Valley et al
U.S. District Court, California Central District (Western Division, Los Angeles)
Trial scheduled for Aug. 25, 2009

Plaintiffs allege Reymundo Guerrero, 33, was shocked with a Taser “multiple and repeated” times on May 15, 2007, by Simi Valley, Calif. police. The confrontation followed a brief police chase after Guerrero was reportedly said to be driving erratically and refused to pull over for police, according to news reports. He died a week later. The Ventura County district attorney's office is still investigating the police officers’ actions in the incident, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

The following is an excerpt from the above-mentioned SEC filing, Taser’s Form 10-Q, filed Nov. 7, 2008, in which the company discusses the litigation it faces:

From time to time, the Company is notified that it may be a party to a lawsuit or that a claim is being made against it. It is the Company’s policy to not disclose the specifics of any claim or threatened lawsuit until the summons and complaint are actually served on the Company. We intend to defend and pursue any lawsuit filed against or by the Company vigorously. Although we do not expect the outcome in any individual case to be material, the outcome of any litigation is inherently uncertain and there can be no assurance that any expense, liability or damages that may ultimately result from the resolution of these matters will be covered by our insurance or will not be in excess of amounts provided by insurance coverage and will not have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results or financial condition.

In addition, the Company has eight lawsuits where the costs of legal defense incurred are in excess of its liability insurance deductibles. As of September 30, 2008, the Company has recorded approximately $222,000 in other assets related to the receivable from its insurance company for reimbursement of these legal costs.

The Company may settle a lawsuit in situations where a settlement can be obtained for nuisance value and for an amount that is expected to be less than the cost of defending a lawsuit. The number of product liability lawsuits dismissed includes a small number of police officer training injury lawsuits that were settled by TASER International and dismissed in cases where the settlement economics to TASER were significantly less than the cost of litigation.

One of the training injury lawsuits brought by a law enforcement officer was settled in June 2007 for an amount in excess of nuisance value by our insurance company. Our insurance coverage at that time did not cover our costs of defense if we won at trial. However, our insurance coverage at that time provided for a pro-rata reimbursement of our costs of defense if the lawsuit was settled. Upon final settlement of this case, the Company was paid $241,000 by our insurance company as reimbursement of the Company’s costs of defense.

Due to the confidentiality of our litigation strategy and the confidentiality agreements that are executed in the event of a settlement, the Company does not identify or comment on which specific lawsuits have been settled or the amount of any settlement.

The Company is currently named as a defendant in 40 lawsuits in which the plaintiffs allege either wrongful death or personal injury in situations in which the TASER device was used (or present) by law enforcement officers or during training exercises.

In addition, 77 other lawsuits have been dismissed or judgment entered in favor of the Company which are not included in this number.

In each of the pending lawsuits, the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages from the Company. The defense of each of these lawsuits has been submitted to our insurance carriers that maintained insurance coverage during these applicable periods and we continue to maintain product liability insurance coverage with varying limits and deductibles. Our product liability insurance coverage during these periods ranged from $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 in coverage limits and per incident deductibles from $10,000 to $500,000.

We are defending each of these lawsuits vigorously.

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