By Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A deputy sheriff who is considered one of Missouri's best-known anti-methamphetamine crusaders won a $5 million jury verdict Wednesday from a Gray Summit meth maker over injuries suffered in a raid.
Franklin County sheriff's Sgt. Jason Grellner sued Troy J. Manning last year, claiming he was permanently injured by a cloud of anhydrous ammonia during a 2002 raid of Manning's home.
Grellner opened a Thermos in Manning's front yard, thinking it was full of crushed lithium batteries used to make meth.
Instead, Grellner was enveloped by a cloud of ammonia, another ingredient. His nose, esophagus, lungs and mucous membranes were permanently damaged and he suffers from asthmalike symptoms, his lawyers have said. Also, he can no longer enter drug labs for fear of further damage to his already weakened respiratory system.
Manning, 41, or lawyers for him, never responded to the lawsuit and did not appear in court for the trial Wednesday. He is in a medium-security federal prison in Tennessee, serving a five-year sentence for conspiracy to make meth and conspiracy to possess pseudoephedrine.
Judge Cynthia M. Eckelkamp entered a default judgment for Grellner, and jurors had to decide only the issue of damages.
Grellner, a detective who helped lead the successful efforts to restrict access to one meth ingredient - cold pills containing pseudoephedrine - said he was "extremely pleased." Lawyer Kevin Dolley said that jurors compensated Grellner for past and future medical expenses, lost wages and other effects of his injuries.
Although Manning is in prison, lawyers may be able to go after any insurance policy he held at the time of the raid.
Cases of this type appear rare, but a St. Louis County police officer won $600,000 in a similar suit against a Eureka property owner last year.
Grellner Nose, esophagus, lungs and mucous membranes were damaged.
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Mo. deputy sheriff wins $5 million judgment for meth raid injuries