A Utah judge will allow a wrongful death suit brought by the family of a bipolar man, allegedly killed by police use of a Taser stun gun while he was having a manic episode, to go to trial.
While U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups barred some claims alleged by the family of Brian Layton Cardall, he granted permission for the central wrongful death claim to go to trial and rejected defendants’ calls for the case to be thrown out.
Cardall, 32, died in 2009 after being shocked with a Taser by Hurricane City police.
According to the complaint, Cardall was naked, unarmed and in the throes of a bipolar manic episode when he was stopped on the side of a southern Utah highway by police officers. The officers had been called out on reports of Cardall acting erratically and running nude through the streets.
After being shocked with a Taser, his wife, Anna, tried to see if Cardall would be okay, but Hurricane police prevented her from helping him and ordered her back into her vehicle. They also failed to render aid to Cardall before paramedics arrived, even after he showed signs of distress, the lawsuit claims.
The city, Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell and Officer Ken Thompson are named as defendants in the case.
Taser stun guns are designed to incapacitate neuromuscular function by delivering a shock that uses Electro-Muscular Disruption technology. Many law enforcement agencies have deployed the weapons to allow police to incapacitate someone who poses a threat. However, there have also been a number of reports of overuse and abuse of the weapons, which can have fatal consequences in some cases.
Taser International has maintained that their stun guns are non-lethal when used correctly, and has defended itself in a number of product liability lawsuits. However, hundreds of deaths have been linked to Taser gun use throughout the United States, leading Amnesty International and other groups to call for police forces to stop using them altogether or limit Taser use to life-threatening situations.
Cardall’s death resulted in a resolution signed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert that called for Utah police departments to retrain officers in how to handle the mentally ill.