Flood of Taser litigation

by Ted Frank on May 24, 2007

Taser International stock dropped from $33 to $6 in 2004-05 after the plaintiffs’ bar engaged in a huge publicity campaign challenging the safety of Taser devices. Taser claims this week that it has won its 45th straight products liability case. (“Taser wins 45th-straight court case”, Business Journal of Phoenix, May 21). Little celebration to shareholders, as the stock is still in the single digits, perhaps because of the overhang: those 45 victories can be completely undone if a 46th court awards bankrupting punitive damages.

As Walter noted in November, Taser Int’l. is hardly innocent of engaging in litigation itself, though its suits against medical examiners seek only a change in ruling, and not damages. (Karen Farkas, “Taser sues over ’cause-of-death’ rulings”, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Nov. 21). Kohler’s motion to dismiss for lack of standing was denied in January, and the case is in discovery. Taser has also sued an expert witness who testified against it in a losing case. (Taser 10-Q, May 2007).

Earlier discussion of Taser litigation: Feb. 17, 2006.

{ 5 comments }

1 jb 05.24.07 at 12:10 pm

What would the effects of some sort of Stare Decisis-equivalent in civil litigation be?

In this case, that would make Taser’s 45 victories carry some more weight in the 46th case, but could easily support incorrect theories of liability as well.

2 Justinian Lane 05.24.07 at 12:29 pm

I’m sympathetic to the investors – really I am. But I don’t think we should take the stock market into consideration when we determine product liability laws. Am I wrong?

3 E-Bell 05.24.07 at 1:01 pm

Yes, Justinian, you are.

The investors are the owners of the company. By virtue of baseless law suits (and I think the tort bar’s 0-45 record in such suits pretty much establishes that they were baseless), they have been measurably damaged.

Shouldn’t we favor a system whereby the mere filing of a suit shouldn’t damage the defendant?

4 Ted 05.24.07 at 1:02 pm

Of course we should take the cost to innocent investors when evaluating the benefits and costs of product liability law. Stock market returns influence the willingness of investors to invest capital into new business. Here, meritless litigation has contributed to the destruction of investment, creating a disincentive to future investment, costing jobs in the long run.

If we shouldn’t take stock market results into account in product liability laws, why should we take it into account in securities laws? The excesses of product liability law does a lot more harm to investors than the immunities in securities laws that I have defended, resulting in Lane posting dishonest smears of me on two separate blogs.

5 Gino 05.24.07 at 5:10 pm

Tasers are loathsome things. They were touted as non-lethal weapons; an alternative to guns when deadly force is necessary. But instead of using tasers in lieu of guns, law enforcement simply lowered the threshold for when force could be used. Why not? It’s not like a taser will kill you or anything. It doesn’t even leave a mark. So now “passive resistance” is all it takes to get your ass zapped with 50,000 volts. It was a classic bait-and-switch. I wouldn’t be too bothered if the company that sells them went bankrupt. I might give one cheer to the lawyer who accomplishes it. Now, is there anything we can do about the companies marketing red light cameras to cash-strapped cities and counties before we get screwed again?

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