Our police stun gun lawsuit lawyers sue officers and police departments for the use of excessive force.
A stun gun, including conducted electrical weapons such as a TASER device, can cause serious harm and even death. Victims of unlawful shocking have the right to sue law enforcement departments for injuries and death caused by the abuse of power.
Police departments across the country issue stun guns to police officers to use in the event that force is necessary to detain a person who is resisting arrest. Or, to immobilize a person who is allegedly in the act of committing a criminal offense.
Many people assume that police use of stun guns is always valid or appropriate because these weapons are not designed to result in deadly force. They are perceived as less deadly or harmful than a gun or other firearm. However, it is critical to understand that police stun guns can still result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries to suspects, and the use of a stun gun often can amount to unlawful excessive force.
- How Do Police Stun Guns Work?
- Getting the Facts About Police Stun Gun Injuries
- Facts and Figures: Police Stun Gun Lawsuits
- Who Can You Sue for a Police Stun Gun Injury?
- Theories of Liability in Police Stun Gun Lawsuits
- Police Stun Gun Lawsuits in the News
If you or someone you care about suffered serious injuries after being subdued by a law enforcement officer with a stun gun, it is essential to learn more about the possibility of filing a police stun gun lawsuit. These cases can result in significant money settlements.
Depending upon the circumstances of the case, many different parties may be liable for serious or deadly injuries. These can include the individual police officer, the police department, the county or state, and even the designer or manufacturer of the stun gun.
You should seek advice from an experienced national police stun gun lawsuit attorney as soon as possible to determine your eligibility for filing a civil lawsuit.
How Do Police Stun Guns Work?
Stun guns, including conducted electrical weapons such as TASER devices, have become prominent in U.S. news since summer 2020, when police shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Georgia following a stun gun incident. According to The New York Times article, stun guns (including the TASER device) “have been used by law enforcement for decades.” They are typically deployed when a suspect is allegedly being aggressive or is behaving in such a manner that leads law enforcement officers to believe that person is resisting arrest.
The use of the stun gun results in a “jolt . . . with 50,000 volts of electricity.” That discharge, according to The New York Times, is known as a “cycle,” and it can last for approximately five seconds. The shock that comes from a stun gun “can cause pain that has been described as excruciating.” The article cites Professor Dennis J. Kenney at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, who explained that a stun gun cycle works like this: “Your muscles freeze up, and down you go.”
Stun guns can be used in different modes — either from a distance, or when they are in “drive mode” or close range. When a stun gun is fired at a person from a distance, prongs that are connected to wires will be expelled from the gun and discharged at a person. This type of distance mode allows a user to immobilize a person within approximately 10 feet from the stun gun.
At close range, the firearm still expels those same prongs connected to wires, but the connection to the subject’s body is nearly immediately. While stun guns are not designed to result in immediate death, many people who are shot with stun guns die from injuries.
Getting the Facts About Police Stun Gun Injuries
Police stun gun use has resulted in the deaths of anywhere from several hundreds to thousands of deaths. The following are statistics about police stun gun injuries that have been collated from The New York Times article and a Reuters article:
- As of 2017, reporters had documented a total of 1,005 stun gun-related deaths after being shot by police or other law enforcement officers.
- Those 1,005 stun gun-related deaths do not include cases in which a suspect was later shot with another firearm after being stunned with a stun gun.
- Between 2001 and 2020, at least 500 people have sustained fatal injuries after being shocked with stun guns by police either during an arrest or while in jail.
- Majority of police stun gun deaths have occurred in California (with a total of 92 deaths between 2001 and 2020), with Florida and Texas close behind (with totals of 65 deaths and 37 deaths respectively).
- Earliest report of a police stun gun death came in 1983.
- 90% of arrestees or detainees who were shocked and killed with stun guns were unarmed at the time.
- Adverse effects from stun gun shocks are primarily what result in deaths, but stun guns have been identified as primary contributing factors in dozens of killings.
- Amnesty International reports that adverse effects from stun gun shocks “can happen very quickly, without warning, and are impossible to reverse.”
- Shocks delivered to a person’s chest can result in cardiac arrest and sudden death.
It is critical to remember that police officers, governments, and other entities can be held liable in such cases when the use of the stun gun was negligent or constituted unlawful excessive force.
Facts and Figures: Police Stun Gun Lawsuits
How many people have filed lawsuits related to police stun gun injuries and deaths? The following are some facts and figures from the sources cited above:
- Wrongful death lawsuits were filed in at least 442 out of the 1,005 police stun gun deaths that occurred from the 1980s up until 2017.
- 435 of those wrongful death lawsuits named the police and the specific municipalities as defendants in the lawsuits.
- Taser International, which has now become Axon Enterprise, was named as a defendant in at least 128 lawsuits.
- Taser International, or Axon Enterprise, was the only defendant named in 27% of wrongful death claims filed.
- More than 60% of wrongful death claims filed against police departments or local municipalities or governments resulted in a judgment or a settlement award from the plaintiff.
- In total, between 1983 and 2017, lawsuits against police departments or governments resulted in a total of 220 settlements and 12 judgments in favor of plaintiffs.
- In 193 of those cases, plaintiffs received a total of $172 million (not including 36 cases in which settlement amounts were confidential or unlisted).
Use of stun guns by police has remained an important issue of concern in recent years, and more cases have been filed against police departments, governments, and stun gun makers since 2017. If someone you love was killed after being shocked with a stun gun by the police, you should begin working with a police injury attorney to learn more about your options for filing a claim to seek financial compensation and to hold the wrongdoers accountable.
Who Can You Sue for a Police Stun Gun Injury?
Any of the following parties may be liable and could be named in a police stun gun lawsuit depending upon the specific facts of your case:
- Police officer who fired the stun gun or administered the stun gun shock
- Police department where the law enforcement officer was employed
- Municipality, city, or state associated with the police department or the jail where the shocking incident occurred
- Healthcare provider who failed to properly treat injuries associated with a stun gun shock;
- Designer of the stun gun or one of its parts
- Manufacturer of the stun gun or one of its parts
- Distributor of the stun gun
You can sue one or more of the above entities. In fact, most victims typically sue the police officer, the police department, and the related government entity.
Theories of Liability in Police Stun Gun Lawsuits
If someone you love was injured or killed by the police after being shot or shocked with a stun gun, it is important to learn more about potential theories of liability.
In general, theories of liability include excessive force and constitutional violations, as well as negligence. Here is some additional information:
- Fourth Amendment violation: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows a police officer or other law enforcement officer to use deadly force only in a situation in which deadly force is necessary “to prevent the escape of a fleeing subject” and in a situation where “the officer has a good-faith belief that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to others,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court case Tennessee v. Garner (1985). In addition to those requirements for the use of deadly force, the U.S. Supreme Court case of Graham v. Connor (1989) also requires any police action, including the use of deadly force, to be reasonable under the circumstances. In other words, it must be true that a reasonable person in the same situation would have believed the force used was reasonable given the circumstances. Otherwise, if deadly force is not used in an acceptable circumstance or is not reasonable given the particular facts of the case, then the police may be responsible for unlawful excessive force.
- Civil Rights Act violation: The Civil Rights Act of 1871 has, in the past, been used in conjunction with substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to make an argument about excessive force. However, claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and the Fourteenth Amendment have largely been superseded by Fourth Amendment excessive force claims.
- Negligence: While negligence is the basis for many ordinary personal injury lawsuits such as car accident claims or premises liability lawsuits, negligence can also be the basis for a police stun gun injury lawsuit or wrongful death claim. Police officers, police departments, governments, and makers of stun guns may be named in negligence claims.
- Strict liability: Depending upon the state in which you are filing a claim for a police stun gun injury, the designer, the manufacturer, or the distributor of stun guns may be strictly liable for injuries that result from stun gun use. Strict liability is often the theory of liability in product liability or product defect lawsuits, where an injured person sues the maker of a dangerous product for the defective design or manufacture of a product, or for defective marketing (or the failure to warn about risks associated with the product’s use). Strict liability would only potentially apply to lawsuits against the makers of stun guns.
Determining whether or not a law enforcement official has used unconstitutionally excessive force can be difficult to determine. Some of the following facts may come into play in determining whether police force was reasonable or excessive under the Fourth Amendment:
- Severity of the criminal offense for which the suspect is being arrested
- Whether or not the suspect poses a threat to the law enforcement officers or to other people in the vicinity (including whether or not the suspect has a weapon or is armed)
- Whether or not the suspect attempts to resist arrest
- Whether or not the suspect flees
Police Stun Gun Lawsuits in the News
As we have discussed, hundreds if not thousands of people have been killed by police stun gun ssince the early 1980s, and hundreds of families have filed lawsuits against police departments, local governments, and stun gun manufacturers to seek financial compensation for injuries.
The theories of liability in many of these cases vary depending upon the particular facts of the case and the state where the incident occurred. In some localities, police are banned from using stun guns, and police manuals or procedures in a particular place can play a role in determining the strategy for a lawsuit.
Ultimately, you should seek advice from a police stun gun injury lawyer as soon as possible to strategize about your lawsuit and the parties who may be liable. In the meantime, the following are examples of police stun gun lawsuits across the country:
- In 2014, the family of a police stun gun injury victim settled a lawsuit against the Columbus, Ohio suburb of Perry Township for $2.25 million, according to a report in the Akron Beacon Journal. In that case, the injury victim, 23-year-old Matthew Hook, fled police following a theft incident. At the time of the incident, Hook was unarmed. A Perry Township Police Officer used a stun gun and stunned Hook in his back while he was climbing a fence. As a result of being shocked, Hook fell “head-first onto the concrete below and suffer[ed] permanent brain damage,” according to the report. The lawsuit named Perry Township, the suburb’s board of trustees, and an individual police officer as defendants in the lawsuit.
- In June 2019, the city of Sacramento, California agreed to “pay $5.2 million to the family of a man who was repeatedly shocked by police stun gun sand left with severe brain damage,” according to a report from AP News. The settlement was the largest in Sacramento city history. The lawsuit arose after police shocked a 34-year-old man, John Hernandez, who was “reportedly acting strangely at a pharmacy,” according to the report. Hernandez ran from police officers who tackled him. Hernandez struggled, and the police officers shocked him “nine times and jabbed [him] with a baton five or six times.” Hernandez stopped breathing and, for at least 10 minutes, was “completely without oxygen to his brain.” He remained in a coma for several days and now has “the mental capacity of a toddler and requires 24-hour care,” according to his family.
- In June 2020, a woman filed a lawsuit against the Southfield Police Department in Michigan and three police officers in the department “alleging that excessive force led her to lose her unborn baby,” according to a Click On Detroit The plaintiff, 38-year-old Crystal White, was involved in a domestic dispute when the police arrived at her mother’s home. The police officers who arrived at the scene accused White of being armed, but she “denied being armed and lifted her shirt to expose her waistline” to show the police that she was unarmed. At that point, according to the lawsuit, one of the police offices “lunged forward and punched her in the left side of her face,” and a second police officer “deployed his stun gun and struck White in the abdomen.” At the time of the incident, White was 12 weeks pregnant. White’s lawsuit alleges that the use of the stun gun, and unlawful excessive force more generally, resulted in the loss of the baby, who died shortly thereafter. White is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
- In December 2020, a 34-year-old man in Sandwich, Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Sandwich police officers and the town, seeking over $6 million for stun gun injuries, according to an article in the Cape Cod Times. Following a seeming domestic incident, police shocked the man in the back, which caused him to fall on the ice and to hit his head. The police then shocked him “again while he was incapacitated and unable to obey commands,” according to the article. The lawsuit alleges that the injury victim “sustained permanent and life-altering injuries from hitting his head.”
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Contact a Police Stun Gun Injury Attorney Today
Police officers should not use stun guns in many situations that result in serious and fatal injuries to alleged suspects. There are many different potential avenues of liability following a police stun gun injury or death, and it is critical for the victim or his family to seek advice from a police stun gun injury attorney as soon as possible.
By filing a civil lawsuit, you may be able to hold the individual law enforcement officer, the country or state, or the maker of the stun gun accountable for the devastating harm caused by one of these firearms and the law enforcement official who deployed it.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with our law firm to learn more about how we can help you with a police stun gun lawsuit. Hundreds of people across the country have filed claims, and thousands of people have been killed by police stun gun incidents.
Contact the Buckfire Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you with your stun gun lawsuit.
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