Court Dismisses Design Claim Against Taser

Court Dismisses Design Claim Against Taser An X26 Taser

A federal appeals court has dismissed a defective design claim brought against Taser International Inc. by the mother of a Missouri man who died of cardiac arrest after being shot in the chest with the device.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted summary judgment on April 3 to the Taser manufacturer after finding the plaintiff, Athena Bachtel, failed to present evidence that the model X26 ECD used on her son, Stanley Harlan, by a police officer was unreasonably dangerous as designed. Read the opinion here in Athena Bachtel v. Taser International Inc.

“Since Bachtel has failed to demonstrate any ‘specific design choices’ that rendered the X26 ECD unreasonably dangerous, her claim fails as a matter of law,” said a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit in affirming the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The court said the evidence the plaintiff points to establishes only a link between the device and the injury.

Bachtel, who settled a suit against the City of Moberly, Mo., and several police officers for $2.4 million, brought the lawsuit against Taser International in 2011 under tort law, alleging that the Taser model used by the police officer was a contributing factor causing her son’s death, the opinion states.

She asserted both strict liability and negligence for Taser’s failure to provide adequate warning that repeated or prolonged shots to the chest with the device could lead to cardiac arrest and for making a defective product.

To prevail in her strict liability claim, the appellate court said, Bachtel would have to establish causation by demonstrating the product caused her son’s death and “that a warning would have altered the behavior of the officers involved in the incident.”

Writing for the court, Circuit Judge Diana Murphy said Bachtel’s failure to warn claim fails “because she did not establish on the record made in the district court that an additional warning would have changed the behavior of the officers involved in Harlan’s stop.”

Laura Castro contributes to law.com.

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