A man whose son died soon after Bangor police officers used a Taser on him in an effort to wrangle him into custody has filed a lawsuit, naming not only the city police, alleging unnecessary force, but also the maker of the device, asserting the product is inherently dangerous.
The case of McCue v. City of Bangor et al has been filed in Maine’s U.S. District Court, with the father seeking $6.5 million in damages.
Bangor wrongful death lawyers know that in-custody deaths are often the result of violence, improper use of restraint or failure on the part of the institution to have the proper policies or protections in place. This claim is somewhat unique in that it incorporates a product liability claim as well.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes a stigma associated with deaths that occur in custody. There may be a perception that the victim somehow deserved what happened. However, our justice system is predicated on treating arrestees and inmates humanely. That means avoidance of unnecessary force, the adoption of policies that work to avoid harm and providing swift and appropriate treatment to someone in physical distress.
Another case of in-custody death in Maine recently resulted in the award of $100,000 to the widow of a convicted sex offender who was beaten to death by his fellow inmates in 2009. According to the Portland Press Herald, the widow alleged policymakers within the state department of corrections perpetuated a culture of deliberate indifference regarding violence inflicted on inmates convicted of these types of crimes.
Reports are that the 64-year-old inmate, who was severely diabetic, was recovering from a broken leg when he was attacked by a hoard of inmates. He died days later of numerous internal injuries.
The settlement, paid out of the state’s self-insurance pool, doesn’t require the state to admit wrongdoing in the case. Over the last five years, approximately 1,320 claims have been made against the Maine State Department of Corrections. A total of $4.6 million had been paid out during that time.
Whether the plaintiff in McCue will be successful remains to be seen. According to court records, the plaintiff’s 28-year-old son was shocked by several jolts from the 50,000-volt device while he was high on bath salts. Police eventually handcuffed him, bound his legs and attempted to carry him to a cruiser. It was at that point that his body went limp.
Emergency personnel arrived and began performing CPR. He was transported to the hospital, but died five days later without ever regaining consciousness.
Although an autopsy report does not blame the Taser, asserting instead that the drugs in his system resulted in cardiac arrest, the plaintiff argues in his complaint that the use of the device contributed to death. In an eight-count lawsuit, he alleges the device is inherently dangerous.
More than 1 million of the devices have been sold globally. In Maine, they are used by officials in 130 agencies, including 11 county sheriff’s departments, the Maine State Police and numerous local police agencies, including those in Bangor, Portland and Holden. They are also possessed by officials at Maine colleges and hospitals.
As the popularity of the devices has grown, so too has the criticism. For example, Amnesty International is pressing for stricter regulations regarding their use, following the release of a report indicating at least 550 people in the U.S. have died in custody since 2001 after receiving a Taser shock.
Police in Bangor say the devices have been used in the line of duty nearly 65 times since 2008.
If you are the victim of a Bangor personal injury, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
McCue v. City of Bangor et al , March 18, 2014, U.S. District Court in Maine
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Maine Supreme Court Rules on Child Lead Poisoning Lawsuit, May 19, 2014, Bangor Personal Injury Lawyer Blog