Thank you to the Cleveland Jewish News for this wonderful story as I get ready to travel to Ohio this weekend to work with Cleveland...
A special thanks to Paula Tutman and WDIV Local 4 for their interest in the work of Achilles International as they begin working with the...
Richard Bernstein is no stranger to tough situations. As someone who is visually impaired, he’s had to face numerous challenges in life–challenges that might make...
Farmington Observer Eccentric
By Stacy Jenkins, Observer Staff Writer
August 17, 2008
It was a life taken too soon, and the family of Elisa Skinner-Bell wants to do everything possible to prevent another tragedy along Michigan's busiest roads and freeways.
Skinner-Bell, 16, died the afternoon of June 27 on the shoulder of westbound I-696 near Lahser, in Southfield, while working in the Michigan Department of Transportation's eight-week summer Youth Corps program.
The Farmington Hills teen was killed when a motorist, Gary Hall of Plymouth, crashed into the rear of the MDOT work van.
The Farmington Hills law firm of Samuel I. Bernstein filed a lawsuit this week against the motorist and MDOT.
MDOT's Youth Corp program, in existence for four years, hires high school students, ages 16-18, to clean up litter from highways while being mentored by college students.
Skinner-Bell was a good student who was to enter her senior year at Farmington Central High School in the fall. This was her first job and she was starting to drive a car on a driver's permit, said her aunt, Erica Bell of Farmington Hills.
"She never got the chance to do any of that," said Bell, who said her niece loved children and enjoyed photography. "It was a child's life that ended well too soon. To see that happen to someone else's family, I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
According to the complaint against MDOT, attorney Richard Bernstein is asking the court to put an end to the program, alleging proper safety precautions are not being taken to protect the teen workers.
"We are filing this lawsuit because it's clearly the only way to get the State of Michigan to take our best and brightest students out of harm's way rather than on the side of a freeway," said Richard Bernstein. "One family has already suffered because of this program, and that's one too many."
The suit alleges MDOT failed to place signs or barriers near the work zone and did not provide proper training or supervision for the workers.
"There were no cones out, lights, or anything like that," said Bell. "There were no signs posted and no thought was ever given to the fact that something could happen to a child."
Skinner-Bell's family is outraged that the program is continuing, despite the tragedy.
"We'd like to get the word out, that this program is continuing and there are no modifications being done," said Bell. "The program is going on, as if nothing happened."
MDOT spokesman Devon Pannecouk confirmed the program remains in operation, but could not comment on procedures or anything related to the lawsuit.
"It's against MDOT's policy to comment on pending litigation," he said. "We'll let the courts do their job."
The suit against Hall, the motorist who was not charged in connection of Skinner-Bell's death, claims he was negligent and reckless when he crashed his Ford Excursion into the work van.
Police said at the time of the accident, that it appeared Hall fell asleep at the wheel. The Michigan State Police investigator in charge of the case was not available to confirm the status of the case Friday. The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office had no charges on file for Hall on Friday afternoon.
The suits are asking for a minimum of $25,000 plus interest and attorney fees. The complaint has been filed in Oakland County Circuit Court and assigned to Judge Wendy Potts.
Visually Impaired Athlete Sues USA Triathlon
Richard Bernstein Challenges ABA for Discrimination Against Blind Law Students
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Honors Richard Bernstein with Courage Award
Attorney Richard Bernstein Named Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Victory! Disabled Win Access to U-M Stadium