Stokes testifies in Newport Cliff Walk trial

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Keith Stokes, the director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, took the stand Thursday as a witness in a civil lawsuit brought by a Brooklyn man who became paralyzed when he fell off Newport's Cliff Walk.

Stokes says making Cliff Walk completely safe would require erecting an eight foot fence and closing off large portions of the popular tourist attraction. And, he added, it would compromise the walk's historic nature.

Stokes took the stand as a witness for the plaintiff in the case of Simcha Berman, a Brooklyn man who fell off the cliff during his 2000 honeymoon. He's suing the state for negligence, claiming the walk should have had warning signs.

His attorney, Ronald Resmini, estimates actual damages, including lost income and medical care at more than $8 million.

Stokes, a lifelong resident of Newport who has held a number of high ranking positions in the city, admitted that brochures about the walk contain no warnings. But he said once people venture off the walkway - as Berman did - it's a matter of personal responsibility.

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