In 2007, a semi-truck on an Indiana highway struck and killed a 28-year-old Chicago woman. A jury awarded her family $4.25 million for her wrongful death, with her uncle acting as the guardian of her estate. Now, the uncle is heading to prison for lying about the woman’s rightful heirs. Trucking accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail this unique case.
The man in charge of the deceased woman’s estate, Bangaly Sylla, was recently convicted of contempt of court. In the wrongful death lawsuit, Sylla told a Cook County judge that the woman’s only heirs were her parents and eight siblings who lived in the West African country Mali. He was aware, however, that she was married to a taxi driver in New York.
The accident occurred in the eastbound lane of highway 80/90 in Northwest Indiana. The woman, Hawa Sissoko, was standing behind her car when she was crushed by a semi-truck operated by Roadway Express. She had moved to Chicago just two years earlier, was living with Sylla and his wife and sending money she earned home to Mali.
Sylla was appointed Sissoko’s estate administrator and filed suit against Roadway Express on behalf of her heirs. While preparing for trial, a paralegal at the law firm hired to handle Sylla’s suit noticed something odd in Sissoko’s documentation: a marriage license from Mali. A few weeks before trial, Sylla gave his lawyers a document showing Sissoko was also divorced in Mali.
The couple never divorced, however. Sissoko’s husband lives in New York working as a taxi driver, and is the sole heir to her estate. The divorce papers Sylla produced were forged, and in January 2013 the judge overturned the verdict, removed Sylla as the estate administrator, and barred both Sissoko’s husband and her family from seeking any damages from Roadway Express.
In 2014, an appeals court upheld the judge’s decision, yet allowed her husband to pursue damages. He did so, winning $60,000 from Roadway Express. Sylla will be sentenced on June 4, 2015 and is facing several years in prison.
Anyone injured in an accident can sue the person, company, or party responsible for their injuries. In cases of wrongful death, the heir or guardian of the deceased can file suit on their behalf. On the other hand, if the person responsible for the victim’s injuries is deceased, their estate can be sued.
Pursuing a lawsuit against or on behalf of an estate can be complex, but are actually quite common. It is critically important to follow all procedural requirements, otherwise you can be barred from recovering anything at all. For example, you must disclose any and all possible heirs of the estate.
If your lawsuit against an estate is successful, the estate’s assets will be used to pay the claims. If there are not enough assets, your attorney will exhaust every possible avenue to gain the compensation, but it is possible you will not receive all the compensation you are entitled to.
An example of an auto accident lawsuit involving an estate as a defendant occurred in 2009 in Wisconsin. The victim, Brian Sommer, was involved in an auto accident with Richard Timmons and Sommer suffered various injuries. Timmons died about eight months after the crash, leaving no will. Sommer then filed his personal injury claim against Timmons’ estate, along with his wife and known and unknown heirs.
If you have any questions about injury claims from auto accidents, contact our firm immediately. Our team of accident attorneys provide free legal consultations to potential clients nationwide, and we never charge any attorneys’ fees unless we win you a settlement or verdict.