Officers and City not liable in Taser death case says 5th Circuit.


Williams v. City of Cleveland, Mississippi No. 12-60759

(5th Cir. September 25, 2013)(Order publishing opinion dated October 31, 2013)

This is a Taser related death case where the 5th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the City and individual officers on immunity grounds. Williams was a suspect who fled from police and resisted arrest.  He was tased several times he, lapsed into unconsciousness and was pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital. The evaluating physician listed the cause of death as “[t]oxic effects of cocaine in association with shocks with Taser during police chase.”  The family sued Taser International for products liability, the City of Cleveland for failure to train, and the individual officers for excessive force.  The trial court dismissed all claims against all defendants via summary judgment and the Plaintiffs appealed.

As to Taser International, the Plaintiffs produced no evidence demonstrating that the warnings Taser provided were inadequate. As to the City, “[f]or liability to attach based on an ‘inadequate training’ claim, a plaintiff must allege with specificity how a particular training program is defective.”  Plaintiffs failed to produce any evidentiary support as to how the training was defective and offered only conclusory allegations. As to the officers, the court found it significant that Williams attempted to flee and resisted arrest. The deceased performed a push-up with both officers on his back after being tased three or four times and after reaching for the officers’ Tasers and gun. He continued to pose a threat of serious harm throughout the struggle. The evidence in the record established “as a matter of law” that the force used was reasonable, despite contradicting expert testimony on excessive force. The dismissal of all claims against all defendants was affirmed.

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