Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Back Talk Requested: Don’t Tase me Bro!

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | August 27, 2008

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that a lawsuit was recently settled involving the North Braddock Police for $100,000. The thing that makes the suit interesting is that the plaintiff was in his own home when the police arrived in response to a silent alarm. They found the door unlocked, entered the apartment and saw the Plaintiff stretched out on the sofa. The police say he failed to show his hands. They thought he might be hiding a weapon, so they used their tasers. (All comments on what you are probably thinking at the moment will be tased.)

The problem with that defense, according to the PG account, was that they tased him three separate times, including after he had produced ID showing that he lived there. Then, after his family members came home and confirmed his identity, they cuffed him and threw him in a holding cell for a few hours.

The defense attorney stated that the officers were acting in good faith and are thus entitled to statutory immunity. However, the case was settled because the outcome might cost more, even with a defense verdict. Plaintiff’s counsel said he and his client were happy with the settlement. Would you be willing to endure three blasts of a taser for $60,000.00, after paying the contingent fee? Here is the full PG story.

Tasers were introduced as a humane alternative to pistols. They could be used to stun, not kill, a fleeing or potentially armed suspect, just like the phasers on Star Treck. Does that virtue encourage their over-use?

What do you think about the $100,000.00 settlement? Based on what is reported in the newspaper (which is not necessarily what the trial testimony would indicate) would you be inclined to make an award for the plaintiff? Lawyers: what would you look for before you would be willing to take this kind of case for a plaintiff?

Brad Shuttleworth, a Philadephia lawyer with a substantial criminal law practice, may have some thoughts on the subject. I’ll ask if he wants to share a few of them. Brad recently linked his web site, Philadelphia Criminal Justice Blog, to PLBT. You can click over to it on the blogroll at the right, or you can just. click here.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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