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Lawsuit filed against former Charlottesville restaurant boss who struck, injured pedestrian

The former Charlottesville restaurateur fined for striking and seriously injuring a pedestrian with his vehicle now faces a lawsuit.

Lidia Niguse of Alexandria is seeking $350,000 for pain, suffering and medical expenses from Kevin Gill Badke, who once held interests in popular Charlottesville restaurants including the Fitzroy, Trinity and Coupe’s.

“At least one witness saw defendant looking down at something within his vehicle just before the crash,” the plaintiff asserts.

The suit, filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court, cites the grounds of negligence and negligence per se and accuses the 44-year-old Badke of “carelessness, recklessness and negligence” as it demands a jury trial, according to litigation documents filed by Richard Armstrong of the Charlottesville office of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. Armstrong declined to discuss the case with The Daily Progress.

As previously reported, witnesses say they saw Niguse attempting to cross Emmet Street in a marked crosswalk near the University of Virginia School of Education on March 27, 2023, when she was struck by a Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Badke.

A University of Virginia Police Department officer alleged in a criminal complaint that surveillance video shows that Badke’s vehicle twice crossed the painted double yellow line in the moments preceding the incident.

“Mr. Badke appeared to be looking down,” wrote officer Kenneth James Edwards.

While Badke’s criminal defense lawyer would later dispute that allegation, Edwards charged Badke with reckless driving and failure to yield. Badke pleaded guilty in Charlottesville General District Court in June to the lesser charge of improper driving and was fined $100.

With an array of construction equipment in the vicinity for the erection of UVa’s Contemplative Commons, the prosecutor seemed amenable to the reduced charge because a traffic barrel had been in the street. “The available video evidence suggests that this was a terrible and unintended accident,” Assistant Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Will Tanner told The Daily Progress in an email at the time of the criminal plea.

While the civil complaint filed Feb. 21 is silent on Niguse’s injuries, the investigating officer detailed some of them in his criminal complaint. They included a trans-process fracture, vertebral fractures in her lower spine and bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.

“She was unresponsive for one minute,” a witness wrote in a statement filed with the officer’s complaint.

The incident came just seven days after Badke was appointed by Charlottesville City Council to fill an unexpired term on the city’s Board of Architectural Review, the body that reviews alterations to buildings in the city’s design control districts. Badke did not apply for reappointment when his term expired at the end of 2023, according to the city’s preservation planner Jeff Werner.This is not the first time someone with a high-profile role in Charlottesville city government has been accused of seriously injuring a pedestrian. Near the end of 2022, the city agreed to pay $5 million for injuries, including a mild traumatic brain injury, caused by the man who directed the Charlottesville Department of Neighborhood Development Services. After that wreck, Alexander Ikefuna was demoted, but the city claims his demotion was unrelated to the crash.

The day before Badke’s guilty plea on the improper driving charge, a consortium called the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed that more than 7,500 pedestrians were killed by motorists in 2022, a 77% jump since 2010 and the highest number since 1981. Both Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County recorded a pedestrian fatality the year of Badke’s crash.

In Virginia, a lawsuit must be answered within 21 days or the defendant runs the risk that the plaintiff will move for a default judgment. Since nearly three months have elapsed since the filing against Badke with no further filings, that suggests to legal commentator David Heilberg that the two sides are negotiating.

“They may be able settle it,” said Heilberg.


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