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Man settles suit with W.Va. State Police

Steven C. Scott to be paid $100,000 for pain and suffering in Taser incident

Steven C. Scott to be paid $100,000 for pain and suffering in Taser incident

October 14, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A Ranson, W.Va., man who was hospitalized with burns he incurred when police used a combination of pepper spray and a Taser during his arrest in 2006 in Berkeley County is to be paid $100,000 for his pain and suffering as part of a mediation agreement.

The agreement entered Sept. 29 resolves lawsuits filed in the Martinsburg division of U.S. District Court and Berkeley County Circuit Court, according to Berkeley County Commission legal counsel Norwood Bentley III.

Attorneys for West Virginia State Police, Berkeley County, City of Ranson and Steven C. Scott reached the agreement, a copy of which was released Tuesday by Bentley in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The agreement was signed by Scott's attorney, Sherman L. Lambert Sr., and Michael D. Lorensen and Keith Gamble, legal counsel for the defendants.

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Lambert had asked for $40 million in damages in the federal suit he filed in October 2007 and $10 million in the state suit he filed in October 2008, according to court records.

Scott will be paid through a claim filed with an insurance company through the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management, Bentley said. The Berkeley County Commission had to pay a $2,500 deductible, and the defendants also are responsible for mediation costs, Bentley said.

In the federal complaint, West Virginia State Police and former Col. David L. Lemmon, Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and former Sheriff Randy Smith, Ranson Police Department and Chief William Roper, the City of Ranson, the Berkeley County Commission and 10 "Does" were named as defendants.

A dismissal order for the federal case was signed Oct. 1 by U.S. District Judge John P. Bailey, and Lambert told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes in an Oct. 7 letter that the state court case was settled during mediation Sept. 29 at the offices of Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love, according to court records.

The state lawsuit named "West Virginia State Police Officers, Does 1 to 10" in their individual capacities for the handling of Scott's arrest.

Scott was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore for the burns, which Lambert described as severe in his eight-page federal complaint. The complaint claimed excessive force, assault, battery and negligence during the arrest and sought exemplary damages to "defer future misconduct."

The incident on Oct. 23, 2006, prompted Smith and then-West Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Lisa M. Lambert to announce internal investigations to determine how Scott incurred the burns while being arrested near Eastern Regional Jail in Berkeley County.

Three days after the incident, Smith and Sgt. Lambert confirmed in a joint statement that arresting officers used a Taser and CAP-STUN, a brand of pepper spray, to detain Scott and that "an ignition occurred, causing burns to the suspect."

In the statement, they said their agency's officers caught up with Scott on W.Va. 9 near 84 Lumber east of Martinsburg after the Ranson Police Department initiated a pursuit.

An officer in Ranson began pursuing Scott after the department was notified that Scott failed to return a 2001 Lexus SUV to a used car business after taking it for a test drive several hours earlier, according to police.

Once the SUV was stopped along Grapevine Road near the jail, police said the driver refused to get out of the vehicle and resisted arrest, which prompted the use of force by arresting officers.

Scott was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, counts of battery on a police officer and several traffic offenses.

In his complaint, Scott's attorney indicated his client had not taken his medications for schizophrenia for several days before the incident.

"It was an unfortunate incident in the process of trying to do our duties," Smith said Wednesday.

Roper could not be reached for comment.

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