Bike fatality on Route 111 is subject of suit

Kelly Holleran Mar. 25, 2009, 10:21am

A Madison County woman claims her father was killed after a man hit him while he was riding his bicycle.

Kelly R. Berkel filed suit March 23 in Madison County Circuit Court on behalf of her recently deceased father, Gerald T. Berkel, against Guarantee Electric Company, Christopher J. Hankins and Enterprise Leasing Company of St. Louis.

Kelly Berkel says her father was riding his bike on Illinois Route 111 in Pontoon Beach on Dec. 20, 2007, when Hankins collided with him, causing his death, the complaint says.

At the time of the incident, Hankins was working for Guarantee Electric and was driving a rental truck from Enterprise.

A crucial part of the investigation into Gerald T. Berkel's death was whether his bike had rear reflectors. Kelly Berkel says the bike did have the reflectors, making it easy for cars to spot her father.

However, according to police reports, the bike had no rear reflectors and there were no reflectors on the bike after Berkel received it from Guarantee Electric, the complaint says.

"Defendants destroyed their duty to preserve said material evidence by destroying or negligently disposing of the bicycle's rear reflectors, at a time when each knew or should have known that the same constituted material evidence in potential litigation," the suit states.

Hankins was negligent by failing to stop the truck before hitting the back of Gerald T. Berkel's bike, by failing to properly control the vehicle, by driving too fast and by failing to maintain his vehicle in the proper lane, according to the complaint.

He also negligently failed to keep a proper lookout for pedestrians and bike riders and failed to maintain adequate headlights, the suit states.

Kelly Berkel says Guarantee Electric is liable for damages because Hankins was working for the company at the time of the accident.

Enterprise negligently entrusted Guarantee Electric and Hankins with the car, according to the complaint.

In the four-count suit, Kelly Berkel is seeking a judgment in excess of $200,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

She is also seeking punitive damages in an amount that will deter the companies from committing similar acts in the future.

Robert B. Ramsey of the Law Offices of Michael R. Bilbrey in Edwardsville will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-0294.

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