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Villages to settle lawsuit in fatal car chase case
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Corey Diamond

 

Elliott Cellini

 

jlw, Joe Lewnard

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Published: 1/19/2010 12:00 AM

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More than three years after a car crash took the life of 16-year-old Corey Diamond and forever altered the life of his friend Elliott Cellini, the villages of Buffalo Grove, Wheeling and Gurnee have settled lawsuits rather then spend the next few years fighting them.

The Wheeling village board is expected to approve a resolution tonight that will pay Cellini $40,000 and give $18,000 to Diamond's estate and $2,000 to Brandon Forshall, the third teen in the car.

Wheeling is the last of the three to settle. A few months ago, the Buffalo Grove village board approved giving Cellini $1 million, Diamond's estate $500,000 and Forshall $50,000, said Russell Hartigan, a Chicago attorney who represented Buffalo Grove in the lawsuit.

According to Hartigan, Gurnee's total settlement for all three was about $50,000.

On July 23, 2006, a U-Haul blew the stoplight at Dundee and Schoenbeck roads at the Wheeling-Buffalo Grove border. It plowed into the car containing the three teens, all students at Buffalo Grove High School.

Diamond was killed, and Cellini suffered a traumatic brain injury from which he continues to recover. Forshall escaped serious injury.

The driver of the U-Haul, Ralph Lewis, was fleeing police, a chase that started in Gurnee. In 2008 he was found guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

"It's just such a sad situation," said Wheeling Village President Judy Abruscato. "We didn't want this to go on and on and on. It's in the best interest of the village to settle."

Buffalo Grove paid the greatest share because police there were the lead agency in the pursuit when the crash occurred, Hartigan said.

"We didn't call off the pursuit and the other jurisdictions did," he said. "We are very sympathetic to the family's loss and the driver who caused the accident will be incarcerated for a very long time.

"There are pros and cons to everything and there is a great deal of cost associated with a lawsuit like this. I think everyone wanted closure."

Lewis used a fake ID to rent the U-Haul on July 22, 2006. The following day he drove it to Gurnee Mills, intent on filling the vehicle with stolen goods to pay back drug debts.

He fled the Home Depot at Gurnee Mills after store personnel told him they were calling police because they suspected his identification was forged, prosecutors said.

A Gurnee officer followed the U-Haul south on I-94 where witnesses said Lewis began his high-speed tear through the suburbs. Police clocked the truck doing 80 mph down Milwaukee Avenue before the crash at Dundee and Schoenbeck roads.

Seven drivers described how they feared for their lives as the truck bore down on them doing between 50 and 80 mph.

The lawsuit against Wheeling alleged that the emergency vehicle warning system at Schoenbeck and Dundee roads was not operating properly.

Each village has an insurance policy to cover its settlement, and no general fund money was spent, Hartigan said. Part of the settlements state that none of the villages admit fault or guilt.

Elliott's mother, Allyson Cellini and Corey's father, Ed Diamond, declined Monday to discuss the suits.

U-Haul was also named in the lawsuit, but that suit is still pending, said R. Bruce Duffield, the attorney representing the company. He declined to comment.