San Jose, California – January 31, 2009 — A Federal Judge ordered TASER, International, Inc., today to pay $1,423,000.00 in attorneys fees to the lawyers who successfully represented the family of a 40-year old Salinas, California, man, who died following repeated shocks from three TASER electronic control devices (“ECDs”). The attorneys’ fee award to Attorneys John Burton of Pasadena, California and Peter M. Williamson of Williamson Krauss of Woodland Hills, California, follows the first ever plaintiff’s products liability verdict against TASER, International.
On June 7, 2008, the jury in the case of Heston v. City of Salinas, et al., N.D. Cal. Case No. C 05-03658 JW (United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose)) found in favor of the family of Robert C. Heston in their products liability case against TASER. The jury specifically found that TASER failed to warn of the risks associated with a prolonged deployment of its ECD’S and that such failure was a substantial factor in causing police officers to administer a prolonged deployment to Robert C. Heston who suffered a cardiac arrest as a result and died a day later.
In post-trial motions, Mr. Burton and Mr. Williamson sought to recover their attorneys’ fees under the California Private Attorneys General Statute (California Code of Civil Procedure §1021.5) Before granting attorneys’ fees under the statute, the party seeking such fees must establish four things: 1) a plaintiff must be a successful party in an action resulting in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interests, 2) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or non-pecuniary, must have been conferred on the general public or a broad class of persons, 3) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement must transcend the litigant’s personal interest in the controversy, and 4) such fees should not, in the interest of justice, be paid out of the recovery.
In his 12-page decision (see order attached) granting the plaintiff’s motion and awarding $1,423,000.00 in fees to Messrs. Burton and Williamson, Judge James Ware specifically found, among other things, that the growing prevalence of TASERS “as a law enforcement weapon makes the warnings given about their use an issue of significant societal importance. Thus the issue of whether defendant TASER owes a duty to warn police about the risks of cardiac arrest under certain circumstances concerns an important right affecting the public interest.” (Order P. 5, ll. 3-7) Judge Ware also found that the Heston verdict conferred “a significant benefit” on the public since the “notoriety of Plaintiff’s first-of-its-kind verdict, in some circumstances, has prompted a number of TASER customers and prospective customers to consider the risk of repeated and prolonged Taser electrical charges on individuals in an excited or delirious state.”
(Order P. 7, ll. 6-9 – PDF file)
For more information contact: Peter M. Williamson, Esq. — (818) 226-5700 or
John Burton, Esq. — (626) 449-8300