Ninth Circuit Rules Officer Can Be Sued For Taser Injury

The Ninth Circuit has handed down a major ruling that allows an officer to be sued for injuries sustained from the use of a taser. The unanimous panel ruled that Carl Bryan could sue over his injuries resulting from the use of a taser in 2005 by former Coronado, Calif., police officer, Brian McPherson.

During the incident, Bryan says that he did not hear McPherson tell him to remain in the car and exited. While he was not swearing at McPherson (he was allegedly berating himself), he took one step toward McPherson who then shot him with the taser from about 20 feet away. That caused Bryan’s face to slam against the pavement when he collapsed, causing bruises and smashing four front teeth.

While the officer can still argue that the tasering was justified at trial, the panel was skeptical:

Not only was Bryan standing, unarmed, at a distance of fifteen to twenty-five feet, but the physical evidence demonstrates that Bryan was not even facing Officer McPherson when he was shot: One of the taser probes lodged in the side of Bryan’s arm, rather than in his chest, and the location of the blood on the pavement indicates that he fell away from the officer, rather than towards him.9 An unarmed, stationary individual, facing away from an officer at a distance of fifteen to twenty-five feet is far from an “immediate threat” to that officer. Nor was Bryan’s erratic, but nonviolent, behavior a potential threat to anyone else, as there is no indication that there were pedestrians nearby or traffic on the street at the time of the incident.10 Finally, while confronting Bryan, Officer McPherson had unholstered and charged his X26, placing him in a position to respond immediately to any change in the circumstances. The circumstances here show that Officer McPherson was confronted by, at most, a disturbed and upset young man, not an immediately threatening one.

The three judges on the panel were Circuit Judges Harry Pregerson, Stephen Reinhardt and Kim McLane Wardlaw.

Here is the opinion: 08-55622
For the full story, click here.

10 thoughts on “Ninth Circuit Rules Officer Can Be Sued For Taser Injury”

  1. If you spent more time getting information and understanding these situations from a law enforcement, inded, societal perspective perhaps your “cop hatred” would be tempered. I’ve been “tased” and it is preferable to being “O.C.d”. The loss of lives and serious injuries that the taser has prevented is probably not “provable” but certainly whatever that numberis it is at least as valid as the number of jobs saved or created by the Obama administration.

  2. The decision of the 9th should help to curb the overuse of tasers, and by obvious incorporation, much of the misuse and abuse of tasers as well. If fully implemented and adopted, then it’s a great first step.

    Next up is the false claims of safety and associated liability. The recent Maryland AG’s reported concluded that Taser International has “significantly” understated the risks of taser use. That’s fairly clear. The world’s karmic balance will not restored until Taser International loses a major suit, followed by a trickle, followed by a flood.

  3. As usual, it takes regulations to stop abuses. Just as Wall Street was unable to regulate itself where greed is concerned, LE was unable to regulate itself where violent behavior is concerned.

    Now that liability is attached to violent behavior, LE departments and unions will start rounds of “training” sessions to teach the officers how to control their violent tendencies.

    Perhaps this is the kind of ruling we need to bring sanity and order to Wall Street … all tax payers can sue Goldman Sachs, etc.

    However, how do we regulate the corruption in the Senate?

  4. It is way past time that the use of this dangerous weapon is reined in and the people who misuse it prosecuted.

  5. Excellent ruling.

    Now LE agencies need to revise and set firm ‘use of force continuum’ guidelines to ensure that their LEOs understand the proper use–and the consequences of misuse–of discharging a Taser.

  6. Finally, the unfit will now be a liability for any city dumb enough to hire them.

    I had begun thinking that alternative self-defense methods from such dangerous cops could be a growth industry. Bad cops shooting a meditag-wearer would get sued within minutes with an optional auto-dialing legal service/video/gps module).

    Seriously though, this is great news.

  7. It’s a decision that’s long overdue. Maybe it will help this taser victim:

    “Cop Went Wild With Taser, Diabetic Says
    (CN) – A suburban Chicago police officer Tasered a man 11 times while he was having a diabetic seizure, and the 56 seconds of needlessly inflicted electric shock, “inflicted … ”

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