Taser-Injured Trooper Will Take State to Trial

     (CN) - A Washington state trooper who was injured in a training demonstration on Tasers can bring his workers' compensation case to trial, a state appeals court ruled.
     Michael Michelbrink Jr. participated in a mandatory Taser training course in 2007. The instructor used the Taser on every trainee for 1 to 5 seconds.
     The demonstration left Michelbrink incapacitated, as expected, but also with a bulging disc and a fractured vertebra. He was home for six months before returning to the job.
     A few months after the Department of Labor and Industries awarded Michelbrink a "Category 2 permanent thoracic spine impairment," he sued his employer for deliberately injuring him.
     The Washington State Patrol failed to have the superior court dismiss the case on the basis of the workers' compensation benefits Michelbrink already received.
     A three-judge appellate panel in Tacoma affirmed last week that Michelbrink's employer is not protected by immunity.
     The state patrol's lead firearms instructor knew that "the most typical effects of a Taser exposure included temporary pain, minor skin irritation, temporary blisters and redness or minor bleeding if the Taser probes punctured the skin," Judge J. Robin Hunt wrote for Division II Washington Court of Appeals.
     For this reason, Michelbrink has presented an issue of material fact as to whether his employer meant to cause him "certain injury," which does not have to be a major injury, the court found.
     "We further note that WSP trained its troopers how to remove Taser barbs from a human target," Hunt wrote. "Even if such trauma is relatively minor, it falls within the definition of an 'injury' for which a plaintiff may recover in tort."
     Here Michelbrink has also presented an issue of material fact over whether the state patrol willfully disregarded his risk of injury, according to the 18-page ruling.
     "Despite this knowledge of certain injury, WSP shot troopers with Tasers during training, which is required of all troopers using Tasers in the course of their duties," Hunt wrote.