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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Family of man who died after being tasered files wrongful-death suit

September 11, 2008
DAWN WALTON, Globe and Mail

CALGARY -- The family of an Alberta man who died after being shocked repeatedly with a taser has filed a $1.7-million wrongful-death suit, claiming gross negligence by the U.S.-based company that makes the device, as well as local police and health-care providers.

The lawsuit, filed recently with the Court of Queen's Bench in Red Deer, alleges negligence and breaches to legislation by Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., the RCMP and individual officers who zapped Jason Wayne Doan in 2006, as well as the health region, a Red Deer hospital, and the doctors and paramedics who tended to the 28-year-old pipeline worker.

The plaintiffs are Mr. Doan's sister, Surya Doan, his daughter Alisha Doan, and his parents, Marlene Doan-Seller and Wayne Doan.

They are seeking $1,745,000 in damages for loss of care, companionship and income, as well as expenses related to the funeral, grief counselling and participation in an impending fatality inquiry.

"The plaintiffs say the conduct of the defendants ... warrants an award of aggravated, exemplary and/or punitive damages," the lawsuit alleges.

Statements of defence have not been filed. None of the allegations have been proved in court. Any trial would likely take place after the fatality inquiry, the family's lawyer, Will Willier, said.

Steve Tuttle, Taser International's vice-president of communications, said the company stands behind the safety of its product.

The provincial inquest, scheduled for December, is designed to make recommendations to avoid similar deaths in the future, but not to assign blame.

Police in the central Alberta city have said they were investigating a report of someone breaking windows of vehicles at a park on Aug. 10, 2006, when Mr. Doan was chased by officers. After a short pursuit and scuffle with police, he was tasered. He fell unconscious and was taken to hospital, where he remained until his death 20 days later.

The lawsuit alleges he was hit three times in 38 seconds. Heart failure and excited delirium, considered an extremely high state of agitation, were listed among the causes of death.

Taser International's Mr. Tuttle said 74 product-liability cases have either been decided in favour of the company or dismissed.

But in June, the company lost its first suit and was ordered to pay $6.2-million (U.S.) in damages to the estate and family of Robert Heston after the 40-year-old California man was shocked numerous times with the device and suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.The company has appealed the decision.

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