Canadian inquiry's Taser warning defended in court

Tue Jul 6, 2010 9:59pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - TASER International Inc issued the same safety warning about its stun guns as did a British Columbia inquiry, government lawyers said on Tuesday in urging a court to reject the company's bid to quash the findings.

The inquiry was launched after a Polish immigrant died in Vancouver's airport in 2007 after police shot him with a stun gun multiple times. The exact cause of his death has not been determined.

The inquiry's report warned that the weapons could be lethal, but Taser disputed the finding and said it had ignored evidence.

The U.S.-based company, however, included the safety warning in a product bulletin to police three months after inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood issued his report, provincial lawyer Craig Jones told the B.C. Supreme Court.

"The difference, I suppose, is that commissioner Braidwood did it in plain language, and it was broadcast more widely," Jones told British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Robert Sewell.

Taser's attorney told the court in Vancouver earlier on Tuesday that Braidwood's report had caused concern with customers around the world and it was hurting potential sales.

The guns, also known as conducted energy weapons, are designed to disable a target with a jolt of up to 50,000 volts of electricity. They are marketed largely to police but can also be bought by the public in the United States.

The weapon's supporters say it is a needed alternative to firearms, but critics say not enough independent safety testing has been done on the potential for the jolt to cause a human heart to suddenly fail.   Continued...