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Fees and costs bring award to $1.3M in St. Louis civil rights case

By Scott Lauck

BridgeTower Media Newswires

A federal judge awarded more than $625,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs to a man who successfully sued a police officer who tasered him in his home, bringing the final award to nearly $1.3 million.

In December, a federal jury in St. Louis awarded Wayne Gerling $150,000 in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damage on claims stemming from an encounter with Matthew Waite, a police officer in Hermann.

Waite had approached Gerling about a tractor-trailer parked on the street outside his home. When Gerling refused to turn over his driver license and cursed at the officer, Waite 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 grandson watched. Gerling alleged he fell onto a table, injuring his chest and shoulder.

The parties disputed where the initial exchange took place, with Gerling arguing that he was inside his home when the officer reached in and grabbed his wrist.

After reviewing post-trial motions — and relying in part on Missouri Lawyers Media’s 2021 Billing Rates survey — U.S. District Judge John A. Ross on Feb. 24 awarded $625,265.93 in fees to Gerling’s attorneys from The Simon Law Firm in St. Louis and Norris Keplinger Hicks & Welder in Leawood, Kansas.

The award represented most of the fees the attorneys’ sought, including for time spent on a 2021 appeal in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed part of the suit to proceed. However, the judge disallowed about $7,200 in fees and costs for a focus group and jury consultant, which Ross said was unnecessary given the number of attorneys on the case.

The judge also awarded $12,587 in costs. The final award totaled $1,287,853.

“Complex civil rights litigation is lengthy and demands many hours of lawyers’ services,” Ross wrote. “The Court notes that in this case, the issues were legally complex and fiercely litigated over four years, including an interlocutory appeal to the Eighth Circuit. The Court is also mindful of the important purpose served by civil rights litigation.”

Waite’s defense did not file an appeal.

The case is Gerling v. Waite, 4:17-cv-2702.


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