Family of Woman Decapitated by Gate at National Park Awarded Over $10 Million in Damages
The family of a Ugandan woman who was decapitated by a metal gate at Utah’s Arches National Park has been awarded more than $10 million in damages.
Twenty-five-year-old Esther Nakajjigo, a renowned activist and reality TV star back in her home country, was killed on June 13, 2020, while on a vacation with her husband, Ludovic Michaud.
After getting married only months earlier, the couple had been traveling to national parks throughout eastern Utah, according to the Associated Press.
The park’s recreation areas had only recently begun opening back up to the public after being closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nakajjigo and her husband were leaving the Arches National Park that day when a metal gate swung into the road – unsecured and lacking any sort of lock.
The collision caused major damage to the vehicle, particularly on the passenger side, where Nakajjigo was sitting, according to KUSA. She was decapitated and died.
Family of Ugandan activist Esther Nakajjigo, killed at US park files $270M claim. She was visiting Arches National Park in Utah with her French husband Ludovic Michaud when an unsecured gate swung into the road, decapitating her in their car.https://t.co/xhKvX356B3 pic.twitter.com/rWsy5aZz3I
— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) November 14, 2020
The U.S. government acknowledged that it was at fault for Nakajjigo’s death, but they were initially unable to agree on a sufficient settlement that would satisfy her family.
According to the AP, Nakajjigo was the host of a reality TV series in Uganda that raised funds for women’s needs, such as health-care facilities.
Her family argued that her life’s worth would have amounted to millions in potential earnings.
However, while attorneys for the U.S. government praised Nakajjigo’s charitable work, they noted that her latest job was at a restaurant where she earned $15 per hour.
According to KUSA, Michaud had sought $160 million in damages, while Nakajjigo’s parents, Christine Namagembe and John Bosco Kateregga, sought $9.5 million and $1 million, respectively.
The U.S. government, meanwhile, had sought to pay $3.5 million in total damages to her family.
Federal Judge Bruce Jenkins ultimately awarded the family around $10 million in damages in the ruling Monday.
Some broken hearts never mend, some memories never heal & some tears will never dry is the description, of the mood at Arches National Park where a simple padlock would have saved the life of H.E Esther Nakajjigo.@Johnlaban256@BulyaDesire@usmissionuganda@EUinUG@DailyMonitor pic.twitter.com/o8eU0lpSJx
— Office of Uganda’s Ambassador for Women and Girls (@AmbWG_Uganda) December 10, 2022
Broken down, $9.5 million was awarded to Michaud, $700,000 to her mother, and $350,000 to her father, KUSA reported.
Jenkins decided on the amount after the government provided a “reasonable projection” of Nakajjigo’s earnings potential, the AP reported.
Despite being far less than the family had requested, the damages amounted to the largest federal wrongful death verdict in Utah history, attorneys representing the family said, according to the news agency.
“By his verdict, [Judge Jenkins] has shown the world how the American justice system works to hold its own government accountable and greatly values all lives, including that of Esther Nakajjigo, a remarkable young woman from Uganda,” said Randi McGinn, the family’s attorney.
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