Wisconsin Student Sues Adviser After Finding Out He Played a Role in Mother’s Death

Gavel, symbol of judicial decisions and justiceIt’s not as devious as the headline might suggest, but it is an interesting development in an otherwise tragic event. According to the Milwaukee, WI, Journal Sentinel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student is suing one of her advisers after learning he was the one on the other end of a text conversation that inadvertently led to her mother’s death.

In April of 2013, Megan Mengelt’s mother, Maureen, went for a run in their neighborhood. She was struck and killed by an SUV driven by a Lutheran bishop named Bruce Burnside.

Burnside clocked in at a 0.128 blood alcohol content level. He was also found to be distracted at the time as he was texting and driving. The person he was texting was Tori Richardson, Wisconsin’s College of Letters and Science assistant dean. In 2012, over 10,000 people were killed as a result of drunk driving, and overall, these accidents cost about $37 billion a year.

Richardson reached out to Megan soon after the accident and offered his help in anyway that he could, but he failed to mention that he was the person Burnside was texting at the time of the crash. It wasn’t until this past January that this information came to light through police reports and depositions being made public.

When Richardson approached Mengelt, he did not have a relationship with her prior. She was under the impression it was just a mentor offering help and support for a young student going through a time of grief. Now, she feels betrayed that he would let so much time go by without even mentioning the role he played in the unfortunate incident.

“If the plaintiff had any idea whatsoever that Richardson was a person with whom Burnside was engaged in a texting conversation at the time of Maureen Mengelt’s death, the plaintiff would not have chosen to have any contact whatsoever with Richardson,” says the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.

Burndside pleaded guilty in May 2014 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. For his part, Richardson, who has retained his position under extra supervision, meant for it to be a nice gesture that wouldn’t lead to much more contact. Instead, Mengelt is now arguing it has caused her sever distress.

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