Alleged Shock Pen Personal Injury Prompts California Bill, Interesting Liability Questions

What may come as "shocking" news to practical jokers, a California lawmaker has proposed banning the sale of shock pens to minors in the state following an alleged personal injury from the battery-operated devices.

Democratic Assemblywoman Nell Soto pushed Assembly Bill 58 after a sixth-grade teacher claimed a student prank involving a shock pen left her with nerve damage and arrhythmia.

Susan Casimano also says her sleep, energy and physical fitness have been drastically affected since a student handed her a shock pen during a field trip.

Casimano is now on leave from her job with the Ventura Unified School District because of her alleged shock pen personal injuries, according to a story in the online edition of the Sacramento Bee.

AB 58 would also prohibit minors in California from possessing shock pens and fine violators $100.

Shock Pen Incident Reveals Complications with Certain Personal Injury Claims

Several conflicts make this specific situation a "tricky" one.

Shock pens have been sold in stores for a long time and often include warning statements on their packaging. As an example, the Sacramento Bee story details a specific product warning on shock pens sold in one California store.

The product warning states that the shock pen can interfere with electrical devices like pacemakers and should not be used on people with epilepsy or in situations where people can be injured, like when driving or standing on a ladder or at the top of stairs.

However, this product warning does not say anything about keeping shock pens out of the reach of children.

In doing a separate online search for shock pens, one product warning included a statement to keep the item out of reach of children but did not go into detail about potentially dangerous situations like the example in the Sacramento Bee story.

These differences in product warnings can cause trouble for manufacturers of specific shock pens in those rare cases when a shock pen personal injury is reported.

The Sacramento Bee story further reported that there were only four complaints about shock pens on file with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Commission analyzed the product following one shock pen injury allegation in the past and concluded that these items produced a mild shock limited to the hand and incapable of causing an injury. The sale of shock pens in the United States was therefore uninterrupted.

The sale of shock pens is restricted, however, in certain European countries.

While shock pens are not believed to be capable of injuring the "average person" at least in the United States, what happens when someone like this California teacher alleges severe injuries from these products?

The upcoming months may provide a revealing answer, especially if the teacher proves product liability and is awarded any substantial damages, and if this proposed bill becomes a law.

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