It takes two to text and drive

“University of Wisconsin Madison student Megan Mengelt thought it was a compassionate gesture when College of Letters and Science Assistant Dean Tori Richardson reached out to her after Mengelt’s mother was killed by a driver who was drunk and texting,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jim Stingl writes today.

What he never said, however, is that he was the one who was texting with the person who killed her mother.

Now Mengelt is suing, illuminating the other half of the growing texting-while-driving problem: the people with whom the drivers are texting.

It took almost two years for Mengelt to get the police reports that revealed that the dean “helping” her was the one involved in her mother’s death.

The suit says Richardson was negligent in counseling Mengelt and in failing to reveal his connection to Burnside. It also alleges that Mengelt trusted Richardson enough to confide in him about her feelings, but also to reveal information sought by Richardson about the ongoing criminal case against Burnside, as well as the wrongful death suit the family planned.

In depositions, Burnside and Richardson have said they did not discuss these matters, though they remained in touch after the accident. The civil suit against Burnside is scheduled for trial in July.

Richardson did not return my telephone call or email seeking his side of the story.

UW-Madison released a statement saying Richardson received a 30-day unpaid suspension beginning last May. He is under extra supervision as he continues advising students. By law, the state will defend him in this lawsuit.

Maureen Mengelt was killed in 2013 while jogging in Sun Prairie, Wis. Burnside, a bishop, was on his way to church to deliver a sermon. He was drunk and exchanging flirtatious messages with Richardson, whom he’d met at a party.