NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision in favor of defendants in a police tasing wrongful death claim arising in Cleveland, Miss.

Dextric Williams, brother of decedent Jermaine Williams, filed suit against the City of Cleveland, Miss., Taser International Inc., as well as Stanley Perry and Bryan Goza, individually and in their official capacities.

The decision states that on July 23, 2010, Jermaine Williams fled from two Cleveland Police Department officers, despite repeated warnings that he would be tased if he continued resisting arrest.

Williams was tased three or four times by police, but allegedly because he has used cocaine earlier in the evening he was unaffected by the tasers and continued to resist. He was eventually subdued after additional officers arrived, but after being handcuffed he lapsed into unconsciousness and was pronounced dead after being taken to a nearby hospital.

The evaluating physician listed the cause of death as “[t]oxic effects of cocaine in association with shocks with Taser during police chase.”

On Dec. 3, 2010, Dextric Williams, the brother of the deceased, filed suit alleging product liability against Taser International Inc., against the City of Cleveland under a failure to train theory and against the police officers involved in the incident for excessive force, as well as assorted state law claims.

The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims, which Williams then appealed.

The Appeals Court dismissed the failure to warn claim against Taser, stating that its product did explicitly and repeatedly warn of the risks of serious injury and death, and Williams produced no evidence demonstrating that these warnings were inadequate.

The appeals court also dismissed the claim against the municipality, which was based upon a failure to train theory, because Williams did not demonstrate the City’s training policy procedures were inadequate.

Williams also alleged municipal liability based on an argument that the Cleveland Police Department targeted black males with Tasers systematically. The Appeals Court dismissed the claim, stating that Williams failed to introduce evidence apart from conclusory allegations, stating that, “The fact that only black males were tased by the CPD during the summer of 2010, for example, means little without further information such as black males’ prevalence in the overall population or whether these tasings were unwarranted.”

The case was heard by Circuit Judges E. Grady Jolly, Harold R. DeMoss Jr. and Leslie  H. Southwick.

Case no. 12-60759.

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