Lawsuit filed against Berkeley County Sheriff's Office deputy, county

Civil action concerns incident in which boy's eye was damaged by stun gun dart

March 28, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A lawsuit filed Monday claims a Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office deputy is responsible for injuring a boy in 2010 when a dart from an officer’s stun gun pierced the teen’s right eye socket at the boy’s home.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Joseph R. Ferretti, names the Berkeley County Commission, now known as the Berkeley County Council, and Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Matthew Rephann as defendants.

Ferretti confirmed Wednesday that he filed the civil action on behalf of the boy, who is now 16, and his father, Jeff Clark, to preserve his clients’ damage claim while negotiations with the county’s insurance provider to resolve the matter are under way.

Norwood Bentley III, the county council’s attorney, said Wednesday that Ferretti had notified him the civil action would be filed, but Bentley said he did not have a chance to look at the lawsuit and could not comment about the claims outlined in the eight-page complaint.


Bentley said there is a two-year statute of limitations to filing such a civil action, and he believed that prompted Ferretti to file the complaint.

The lawsuit demands a judgment against the defendants in an amount to be determined by a jury, but indicates the victim’s parents have incurred more than $35,000 in medical expenses, lost wages and other incidental expenses since the March 29, 2010, incident.

According to the lawsuit, the accident happened on the front porch of the victim’s home in the presence of his parents.

Rephann visited the home because the boy’s father was taking part in the sheriff’s department’s civilian “ride-along” program and Rephann was taking him back to his home during the deputy’s evening shift, the lawsuit said.

Before resuming his shift, Rephann performed a “spark test” with his stun gun amid a conversation on the front porch of the victim’s home, and two darts fired from the device, the lawsuit said.

One of the darts ricocheted off a door and entered the victim’s right eye socket. While the stun gun dart was lodged in the victim’s eye, his father secured the wound area with a Styrofoam cup, the lawsuit said.

The boy was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg and then to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where surgery was performed to remove a foreign object from the injured area, the lawsuit said.

The boy suffered “a retinal tear, vitreous hemorrhage, blurred vision, double vision, photophobia, loss of peripheral vision, eye pain, headaches and great concern for his sight capacity,” Ferretti said in the lawsuit.

The boy will be required to wear corrective lens for the rest of his life and also will need to be evaluated by an eye specialist once a year, the lawsuit said.

Ferretti’s complaint alleges Rephann’s conduct was “malicious, in bad faith, reckless or in wanton disregard for the safety of others” and that he violated manufacturer and employer safeguards, policies and procedures in handling the stun gun, which is known as a Taser.

The complaint also alleges the county was negligent in the hiring, training and supervision of Rephann, among other claims.

Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster and Rephann could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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