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Published: March 11, 2010

On March 11, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court, by a 5-2 vote, let stand a Michigan Court of Appeals decision dismissing all civil claims brought by the estate of John Lee Thompson against a Carrollton Township police officer as well as a City of Zilwaukee police officer. The Zilwaukee and Carrollton Township police officers were defended by Thomas J. McGraw, G. Gus Morris, and D. Randall Gilmer of McGRAW MORRIS P.C. in Troy, Michigan. Mr. Thompson died following a prolonged physical struggle with several police officers from multiple jurisdictions. The plaintiff alleged that the Zilwaukee police officer’s use of the Taser on multiple occasions resulted in Mr. Thompson’s death. The Court of Appeals rejected this theory, holding that it was nothing more than speculation to conclude that the use of the Taser caused his death. The Court of Appeals also held that the police officers’ decisions to use the Taser and pepper-spray, both during Mr. Thompson’s arrest and in the sallyport at the Saginaw County Jail did not constitute gross negligence, assault and battery, or excessive force. Specifically, the Court of Appeals determined that “the officers acted or reasonably believed they were acting within the scope of their authority. . . . and that they acted and conducted themselves in good faith, with an absence of malice.” According to Mr. Morris, who represents over 100 police departments throughout the state, “this is the first time the Michigan Court of Appeals or Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of whether a Taser can be considered the cause of someone’s death. The Court of Appeals categorically answered that question with a ‘no,’ finding that there was no ‘causal connection’ between the use of  Taser and Mr. Thompson’s death. The case is also important in that it reiterates to law enforcement personnel that the use of a Taser, either alone or in conjunction with the use of pepper-spray or other non-deadly control techniques, is entirely appropriate when police officers are faced with a combative, resistant, subject.” For further information, please contact Mr. Morris at (248) 502-4000 or via email at


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