Stunning News for Taser

Maybe the tide is finally turning for Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick Taser (Nasdaq: TASR  ) . The stun-gun king yesterday won an important victory in a California court. A federal judge granted Taser's request for a summary judgment in a wrongful-death suit.

According to Bloomberg News, the complaint stemmed from a 2002 police action in which a man was shot and killed by a Madera, Calif., police officer who mistook her pistol for the Taser M26 she also carried. The victim's family alleged that the M26 had substantial design defects and that Taser had failed to warn about the possibility that it could be confused with a pistol.

"Assuming that plaintiffs' allegations that the M26 is defectively similar to a handgun in functionality, design, and muscle memory, then the possibility of weapons confusion is obvious, especially when the M26 is worn close to a firearm," wrote U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishi in dismissing the case. "Under these circumstances, there is no duty to warn."

In light of the dismissal, Taser was indignant in its response. CEO Rick Smith said in a statement issued yesterday morning that Taser's "... strategy is to never settle these baseless claims" and that the company would continue to defend against what it considered to be frivolous litigation.

No question, this is important for Taser. And not just because it breaks an awful string of bad publicity. I'm no lawyer (although my Foolish colleague Rich Smith is), but it seems to me that this represents an important milestone, in that conspiracy theorists can be reasonably assured that courts are examining the merits of Taser's product, rather than making the knee-jerk assumption that the product is overly dangerous.

Still, Taser has a tough road ahead. Checking Google News this morning, I found 1,840 new stories related to the stun-gun maker. On the front page there were -- count 'em -- only four articles related to the court victory. The rest? Well, let's see:

  • The mayor of Birmingham, Ala., has ordered police to stop using Tasers in the wake of the recent death of a 41-year-old inmate subdued with stun guns and mace.

  • A man in Phoenix, Ariz., died after struggling with police who used Tasers to subdue him as a suspect.

  • Two officers in Kansas City, Mo., could be fired over allegedly misusing their stun guns.

Yesterday's court victory might well have been important. But the headlines make it clear to me that the public at large isn't ready to think of a Taser as a beneficial, humane innovation. The stock is likely to remain on a fast track to nowhere until that changes.

For more stunning Foolishness:

  • The legal wrangling isn't over; Taser fired atUSA Today earlier this month.
  • Taser good, says Seth Jayson.
  • No, Taser bad, says Chuck Saletta. Who's right?
  • Let David Gardner tell you the truth about Taser.

Taser is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. If you're itching for outsized returns for your portfolio and don't mind taking on a little extra risk, give Rule Breakers arisk-free trialtoday. Or order now and receive our analysts'10 best stock ideasfor the decade ahead -- FREE. Either way, your portfolio will thank you.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers won't fire a gun, but he'd consider a Taser. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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