The first product-liability trial against Taser International opened yesterday in Phoenix with allegations from a former sheriff’s deputy who said a one-second jolt from a stun gun in 2002 fractured his back and ended his law enforcement career, reports the Arizona Republic. Attorneys for former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy Samuel Powers said Taser officials misled officers about the safety of the stun gun by misrepresenting medical studies, failing to perform adequate tests, and downplaying the potential for injury.
Taser’s attorneys challenged Powers’ medical history, saying evidence showed he had years of back problems and a bone disease that left him vulnerable to the shocks. They denied Taser misled police departments about the safety of its stun guns. The case is critical for Taser International, which says it has never lost an injury claim. The trial comes at the end of a year in which questions about Taser safety led some police departments to shelve the stun guns, started an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and caused the price of Taser stock to drop by nearly 80 percent. Powers was a 16-year veteran of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He is now 47, lives in Ohio and works as a home inspector. Taser originally blamed the sheriff’s office for Powers’ injury. After Powers filed suit, Taser said the sheriff should be held responsible for “unreasonably requiring” officers to be shocked.