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Berkeley County settles suit with family of boy shot in eye with stun gun

The county's insurer has agreed to pay the victim $134,000 and to buy an annuity for $116,000

August 15, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A lawsuit claiming that a Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office deputy was 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 has been settled for $250,000.

Berkeley County Council attorney Norwood Bentley III said the county’s insurer, West Virginia Counties Risk Pool, has agreed to pay the victim $134,000 and to buy an annuity from USAA Life Insurance Co. for $116,000.

The annuity ultimately will be worth about $172,000 to the victim, Bentley said. 

Beginning Dec. 1, the victim is to receive guaranteed annuity benefit payments of $500.95 per month for 28 years and nine months, according to the agreement.

The payments constitute damages on account of the victim’s injuries, according to the settlement. 

According to a lawsuit filed in March by attorney Joseph R. Ferretti, the victim’s parents incurred more than $35,000 in medical expenses, lost wages and other incidental expenses since the March 29, 2010 incident. The lawsuit stated the boy’s parents also expected to incur additional expenses in the future.

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Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Matthew Rephann and the Berkeley County Commission, now known as the Berkeley County Council, were named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed when settlement negotiations were under way, Ferretti had said. 

“My client and I are very pleased with the resolution of this claim,” Ferretti said. “Thankfully, (he) has recovered well from the shooting.”

Rephann said Wednesday night that the accident was upsetting and the thought of it now is sickening.

“I’m very remorseful about the situation ... and for what the family has had to endure throughout this time,” Rephann said.

According to the lawsuit, the stun gun 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 during 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, according to the lawsuit.


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