Taser Zapped With $10M Verdict in Death of 17-Year Old

A jury in North Carolina has delivered a $10 million verdict against Taser International (NASDAQ:TASR) in a case involving the death of a 17-year-old who was Tasered by police.

Darryl Turner was killed on March 20, 2008, in an altercation with law enforcement at a grocery store. Police using Taser devices shocked Turner after the young man allegedly committed crimes including theft, assault on fellow employees, trespassing, resisting arrest, and initiation of assault on law enforcement.

Turner was also in possession of marijuana, evidence that was excluded from the jury and not tested for in the autopsy.

A Harvard cardiovascular pathologist, Dr. James Stone, who testified for the defense, diagnosed Turner with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy [HCM], the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young adults. (A May 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found no research to support substantially increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia when struck by Taser ECD darts.)

The net award of the current verdict will be $9,230,000, offset by $730,000 in a settlement from the City of Charlotte, and deducting $40,000 in a settlement from workers compensation. Taser said insurance will cover about $6 million of the award to the plaintiff.

This was a sad and tragic incident, and our hearts go out to Mr. Turner's family," said Doug Klint, President and General Counsel of Taser International. "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. However, given the important nature of this case and the exclusion of key evidence that occurred, Taser International intends to appeal this verdict."

The company was successful in appealing the 2008 case of Betty Lou Heston, the only other time Taser has received an adverse jury verdict. In that case, the final amounts rewarded to the plaintiff went from more than $7 million to approximately $200,000.

Taser supplies more than 16,200 public safety agencies in 107 countries with its electronic devices and on-officer camera systems.