Taser asks Canadian court to quash critical study
By Allan Dowd
VANCOUVER | Tue Jul 6, 2010 3:00am EDT
(Reuters) - Stun gun-maker Taser International Inc. told a judge on Monday its rights were violated by a Canadian inquiry that recommended police restrict the weapon's use because of safety concerns.
The inquiry concluded that the weapons, which send a disabling jolt of up to 50,000 volts of electricity, pose a risk to the human heart. But Taser International said those findings ignored its own evidence that the weapons have not killed anyone.
"Those findings are not supported by the evidence that was known to the commissioner and was provided to him in advance," Taser's attorney, David Neave, told British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Robert Sewell.
Taser International has asked the court to quash the findings of the inquiry's commissioner, Thomas Braidwood, and argues its rights were violated by not being allowed to respond to the report before it was released publicly last year.
British Columbia launched the Braidwood inquiry after the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.
Police shot Dziekanski six times with the gun, although the exact cause of his death has never been determined.
A bystander's video of the incident was viewed worldwide, and the officers - whose conduct was sharply criticized by Braidwood in a separate report last month - are under criminal investigation.
Braidwood recommended that police restrict how and when they use Tasers until more safety studies could be carried out. But the retired judge but did not call for a moratorium on their use and said the Taser was a welcome alternative to traditional firearms.
Taser International says the report has hurt its potential sales. The Arizona company markets the guns, also known as conducted energy weapons, largely to law enforcement agencies, but they are also sold to the general public in the United States.
The judge has already dismissed a portion of Taser's lawsuit, ruling that its allegations the inquiry's top staff were biased and dishonest were "unnecessary, scandalous and vexatious."
Government lawyers are expected to begin their arguments in defense of the inquiry on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Taser's critics have questioned the validity of its studies that the weapon is safe. The 2009 Braidwood report said there 25 deaths in Canada in incidents in which Tasers were used, and more than 300 in the United States.