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James B. Biggs
James B. Biggs
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Ex Cop Sues Taser Company

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A lawsuit has been filed against a leading manufacturer of stun guns, alleging that the company has mislead law enforcement officers about possible dangers that could occur during training exercises.

A former Kansas City, Kan., police officer has filed a lawsuit against Taser International Inc., contending an electrical shock from a Taser stun gun during a training exercise caused muscle contractions severe enough to fracture one of his vertebrae.

David Howard has sued Taser International, of Scottsdale, Ariz., accusing the company of misleading police departments about the potential for injuries to officers during training.

In an answer to the lawsuit filed last week, Taser International denied Howard’s claims, saying his injuries, in part, could have been caused by an existing condition.

Howard, who left the force after the February 2004 training incident, is seeking an unspecified amount in actual and punitive damages in the federal lawsuit.

As part of its training program, Taser International suggests officers receive a shock to demonstrate the effectiveness of the weapon. Howard claims Taser International failed to include in its training programs a report by one of its consultants concluding that muscle contractions from the weapons could cause fractures.

Howard’s case is one of more than a dozen similar lawsuits filed by police officers nationwide against Taser International, which in 2005 was battling nearly 50 lawsuits alleging injury or wrongful death caused by the stun guns.

The company maintains the Taser was reasonably safe for its intended use when it left the manufacturer and wasn’t defective. It also said it had provided the appropriate warnings and instructions.

Taser International also has moved to have the lawsuit dismissed or the proceedings stayed because Howard had filed an identical lawsuit in August in the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona.

Howard couldn’t be reached for comment this week. He had filed his latest lawsuit without an attorney in Wyandotte County District Court in February. It was moved to U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., late last month.

In March, Amnesty International renewed its call for an independent investigation and restrictions on Taser use, saying that since June 2001 more than 150 people in the United States had died after being stunned with Tasers.

However, Taser International has had some success in defending itself against such lawsuits.

This week the company announced that federal courts in Texas and Florida had dismissed two of those lawsuits, including one involving training injuries. And last month, a federal judge in Oregon dismissed another lawsuit involving training injuries.