Taser lawsuit involving Miami student likely to go to trial

A federal magistrate Tuesday denied TASER International’s motions to dismiss the case. In April 2008, 24-year-old Kevin Piskura was shot with a Taser outside the Brick Street Bar at around 2 a.m., while police were trying to break up a fight. Piskura, of Chicago, went into cardiac arrest at the scene and died five days later at University Hospital in Cincinnati.

His parents filed a lawsuit two years later in federal court against the city of Oxford and TASER International. The Piskuras dropped the city from the suit in February but have proceeded with claims against the Scottsdale, Ariz., manufacturer. The suit claims the company manufactured a dangerous product and failed to warn police of potential dangers. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

“TASER International acted in a despicable, malicious, oppressive and fraudulent manner, in conscious disregard of the rights and safety of the decedent,” the lawsuit states.

TASER International sought to dismiss the case for a number of reasons, including evidence they have that shows two prongs allegedly didn’t enter Piskura’s body, so no electrical charge could have caused his heart to stop.

However, Magistrate Karen L. Litkovitz, in a 40-page ruling, said there is also evidence to the contrary. Several people at the scene and in the emergency room have said two marks from the Taser darts could be seen on the young man’s body, police said two wires were in Piskura’s chest, and that he dropped immediately after he was Tased, which is what usually happens when someone is stunned.

The magistrate also added that doctors have testified a second prong mark on the body may have been obliterated when his organs were harvested. She quoted the deposition of one of the doctors in the case.

“Dr. Ugwu testified that he ‘couldn’t in good conscience separate [the application of the ECD] from [Piskura’s] death’,” she wrote. “I believe the temporal relationship [between the exposure to the Taser and onset of cardia arythmia] was too close to be just a coincidence.”

She did recommend that the district judge throw out two of the Piskura’s legal claims but said other matters TASER International raised are best left for a jury to sort through. She also denied the manufacturer’s motion to exclude one of the plaintiff’s experts and said punitive damages are still on the table.

Steve Tuttle, vice president of communications for TASER International, said the magistrate’s ruling is only a recommendation and Judge Herman Weber will have the final say. He added their position is that Piskura was extremely drunk and that cause his heart to stop.

“TASER denies liability in this case in which the decedent had a high blood alcohol level many times the legal limit, and stands by the safety of its products,” Tuttle said.

The Piskura’s attorney Craig Bashein said the ruling was good news.

“The defendant’s hypothesis that at this exact moment in time he has a cardiac arrest, coincidentally at the precise moment the officer engages the Taser… I think is far-fetched,” he said.

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