Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Don't miss
Home / Verdicts & Settlements / Man tasered in home wins suit against officer

Man tasered in home wins suit against officer

Nine years after he was tasered in his home by a police officer delivering a parking ticket, a Hermann truck driver has been awarded $650,000 by a federal jury in St. Louis — including half a million dollars in punitive damages.

The suit came five years after Wayne Gerling was charged with resisting arrest for failing to turn over his driver license as asked by Officer Matthew Waite, who was responding to an anonymous call complaining about a tractor-trailer parked on the street outside Gerling’s home. 

Within seconds, the encounter escalated after Gerling refused Waite’s request, adding an expletive while disputing the ticket. Waite then told Gerling he was “going to jail.”

At issue for the jury: where each man was during the initial exchange, said St. Louis plaintiff’s attorney Kevin Carnie Jr., whose client argued that he was inside his home when the officer reached in and grabbed his wrist “as he twisted away and told Waite to get out of his house.”

Gerling contended that Waite crossed the threshold, drew his taser and told Gerling to put his hands up. When Gerling continued to back away from the officer, Waite fired the taser as the truck driver’s son-in-law and 9-year-old grandson watched. 

Video of the encounter was later posted on YouTube. While Waite wound up leaving the Hermann force, he continues to work as a police officer elsewhere in the greater St. Louis region, Carnie said.

Gerling alleged he then fell onto a table, injuring his chest and shoulder. Waite arrested him and transported him to the city police station, ultimately issuing tickets for illegal parking and resisting arrest. The city of Hermann later dropped the resisting arrest charge after the officer didn’t show up in court.

Waite’s defense attorneys declined to comment. The defense argument at trial, as summarized by Carnie, was that Gerling was not free to leave as soon as the officer told him he was getting a parking ticket. 

The punitive damages issue revolved around whether Waite was maliciously or recklessly indifferent to the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. The jury deliberated for 3 hours and 45 minutes before rendering its verdict at the conclusion of a three-day trial.

U.S. District Judge John A. Ross granted summary judgment in 2019 to the city of Hermann and its police chief. He denied summary judgment on the excessive force claim against Waite because he thought it was unclear whether a reasonable officer would have believed that Gerling was fleeing or resisting arrest. On Gerling’s claim of unlawful arrest, Ross concluded that a genuine dispute over an issue of material fact existed over whether Gerling was physically inside his home at the time of the arrest.

In June, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of that decision, finding that Waite was entitled to qualified immunity on the claim of excessive force but was not immune from the separate claim of unlawful arrest.

RELATED: Click to search for and submit your Verdicts & Settlements 

$650,000 verdict

Civil rights

Breakdown: $150,000 in compensatory damages; $500,000 in punitive damages

Venue: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

Case Number/Date: 4:17-cv-2702/Dec. 8, 2021

Judge: John Ross

Insurer: MIRMA (for Waite)

Caption: Wayne Gerling v. Matthew Waite

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Kevin Carnie Jr. and Patrick McPhail, The Simon Law Firm, St. Louis; David Welder, Norris Keplinger Hicks & Welder, Leawood, Kansas

Defendant’s Attorneys:  Brad Letterman and Ryan Bertels, Schreimann, Rackers & Francka, Jefferson City