Family of Man in Taser Death Suing Manufacturer

Manufacturer maintains its device is safe

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    A Taser.

    The family of a man who died after police used a Taser to subdue him is suing the device's manufacturer and distributor for negligence.

    An officer shocked Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., 24, for 49 seconds and then again for 5 seconds in April 2009 in front of his parents' home during a disturbance call. His death was ruled a homicide.

    The lawsuit accuses Taser International Inc. and Texas-based distributor GT Distributors Inc. of negligence by creating, marketing and selling a device that didn't have a safety feature to keep a longer-than-normal shock from occurring and by not warning its users of all the risks associated with the product.

    Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle in a statement that said the company does not comment on pending litigation but stands by independent, peer-reviewed medical studies that show the device to be generally safe and effective.

    "Taser technology has proven to reduce excessive use of force claims, and these highly publicized cases represent a small percentage of arrests where it has saved numerous lives, dramatically reduced injuries to both officers and suspects while reducing excessive use of force litigation," he said in the statement.

    GT Distributors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The Jacobs family is asking for unspecified damages because of his death.

    Although a Taser is designed to deliver a 5-second charge of up to 50,000 volts of electricity, Jacobs was shocked for 49 seconds and then for 5 seconds, according to the autopsy report.

    An autopsy concluded that the primary cause of death was "sudden death during neuromuscular incapacitation due to application of a conducted energy device." No traces of alcohol or drugs, electrolyte imbalances, or signs of heart or lung disease were found -- all of which can be contributing factors in a death.

    On April 18, 2009, Jacobs' family called police to their Fort Worth home to report a disturbance and said he had not taken his medication for bipolar disorder.

    In May, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved a $2 million settlement with the family of Jacobs in a separate lawsuit. The family has filed a federal rights lawsuit.

    The Officer Stephanie Phillips, who shocked Jacobs, was not disciplined by the department, and a grand jury declined to indict her in his death. The city admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement deal with Jacobs' relatives.

    The Rev. Kyev Tatum, a Jacobs family spokesman, said the first lawsuit was about holding the police accountable, not money. He said the family now wants to move forward.

    He said in May that his group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is working to stop all law enforcement agencies from using Tasers. He said the stun guns should not be used under any circumstance, and that police instead should be trained in other methods of subduing mentally ill people and should use deadly force only if an officer's life is threatened.

    Background information from a previous report by the Associated Press' Angela K. Brown was included in this report.