Parents file lawsuit against woman who struck, killed their daughter in crosswalk near WVU

By Chris Dickerson | Mar 14, 2019

MORGANTOWN – The parents of a former West Virginia University student have filed a civil lawsuit against the women who struck and killed their daughter last year.

Samuel Berhanu and Seble Wongel Hailu filed the complaint March 12 in Monongalia Circuit Court against Michelle Gelada. Gelada hit 21-year-old Leah Berhanu in a crosswalk on Feb. 1, 2018.

The plaintiffs are co-administrator and co-administratrix of their daughter’s estate.

According to the complaint, Gelada was driving her Ford Explorer eastbound on Patteson Drive near the intersection with Morrill Way when Berhanu was about to walk across the crosswalk.

“Berhanu stepped into the crosswalk and began crossing with the walk light when the defendant intentionally accelerated to get through the intersection, disregarded a red light, and hit and killed Leah Berhanu, who was walking in the crosswalk with the walk light,” the complaint states. “Defendant’s operation of her Ford Explorer at that place, time and date, by accelerating into and through a red light, was intentional, reckless, willful and malicious.”

The complaint says Berhanu was thrown about 175 feet from the point of impact.

Berhanu was a WVU engineering student at the time of her death. Gelada also was a WVU student at the time. She since has moved to New York, according to the complaint.

Morgantown Police charged Gelada with negligent homicide. She was found not guilty after a two-day trial in Monongalia County Magistrate Court in November.

Berhanu’s parents seek compensatory damages as well as damages for sorrow, anguish and solace as well as compensation for the reasonably expected loss of income and for medical bills and funeral costs resulting from her death. They also seek damages for Berhanu’s pre-death pain and suffering and punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief.

Morgantown attorney Allan Karlin of Allan N. Karlin & Associates is representing the plaintiffs.

Berhanu’s family has started a scholarship in her honor to help women who want to become engineers.

Monongalia Circuit Court case number 19-C-63

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Allan N. Karlin & Associates Monongalia Circuit Court West Virginia University

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