Injury and Death from Police Taser Abuse: Settlements and Verdicts
Written By: Brianna D. Gordon
Excessive force by police is a chargeable offense. Many cases of taser stun gun usage have resulted in harm to the civilians and may be eligible for a lawsuit.[i] Tasers first originated in the 1970s and its usage has increasingly grown in the midst of protests against police brutality. Several reports have linked excessive taser use with fatal consequences and injuries. Victims of police brutality at the hands of excessive taser use by the police may be able to receive a settlement. In 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union called for taser regulation.[ii] The New York Times recently investigated cases of victims in New York and New Jersey which appeared to involve excessive or unreasonable force.[iii]
While it is often difficult to criminally charge an officer, excessive force is a violation of the United States constitution and hence may lead to litigation. Although its intended use was to eliminate the need for guns in interactions with suspects, scholars have expressed that extreme caution needs to be used when handling tasers. The long-term effects associated with the chock of these stun guns can have a long-standing effect on the lives of individuals.
Spotlight on Police Brutality, Excessive Force
Cases of police brutality may result in structural changes within police departments. Police brutality has been in the spotlight for the last couple of months as a result of the tragic death of George Floyd that shook the nation. In June, two Atlanta college students were tased and drug out of their vehicle by six police officers. Caught on video, this highlighted the reason for protests and resulted in two of the police officers being fired from their roles in the Atlanta Police Department. Six of the police officers were variously charged with aggravated assault, simple battery, criminal damage to property, and pointing or aiming a gun. However, these outcomes are rare, and pursuing a civil suit may often garner favorite results.
Brain Injury, Wrongful Death Claims
While cases against officers are difficult to make, historically there have been excessive force cases that have received huge settlements and negative consequences for officers involved. Numerous wrongful death lawsuits have been settled in cases where officers used excessive force with a Taser weapon. In a case in Ohio, a man, Matthew Hook, was stunned in the back by a Taser stun gun while climbing a fence. After being shocked, he fell from the fence resulting in a traumatic brain injury. After litigation, Hook’s family reached a $2.25 million-dollar settlement. [iv]
Evidently, the usage of tasers can result in dangerous consequences when used recklessly and excessively. Despite its ‘non-lethal’ intention, it is clear that outcomes may be fatal.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of police brutality and excessive taser use, please call litigation partner Thomas P. Giuffra or Edward A. Ruffo for a free, confidential consultation. Their litigation experience against the NYPD will help them evaluate any potential claims you may have.