Esther Nakajiggo’s Family Awarded US$10M by a US Court for Wrongful Death

The family of Esther Nakajiggo, 25 has won an award of over US$ 10.5 million from the US government for wrongful death. Federal US Judge, Bruce S. Jerkins announced the award in his landmark verdict delivered in Salt City, Utah on January 30, 2023.

Nakajiggo, an ambassador for Women and Girls in Uganda died tragically in an accident while exiting Arches National park in 2020. As a result, her husband Ludovic Michaud, and family filed a legal suit alleging that the US Park Service was negligent in maintaining the gates at the entrances and exits to the park leading to Nakajiggo’s death.

The US government admitted fault and cause of death leading to the trial in December on the damage suffered by the family leading to Monday’s verdict.  According to the judgment, US$ 9.5 million will go to Michaud and the remaining US $ 1 million to Nakajiggo’s parents.  Justice Jerkin described the case as usual since neither the victim nor complainants were US citizens. 

“The husband is a French citizen, employed in and a resident of the United States. The parents are citizens of Uganda, a poor and heavily populated African nation, formerly part of the British Empire. 1 The deceased, Esther Nakajjigo was a citizen of Uganda, but at the time of her death, a United States resident, newly married to Plaintiff Ludovic Michaud.”

Speaking about the verdict, Michaud said “This decision serves as a reminder of the proper maintenance and safety measures in our parks, so as to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.” “The trial gave me and Essie’s family members an opportunity to tell Essie’s beautiful story and it was so important to me to have the chance to stand up and speak for this amazing woman,” he added.

He described his time with Nakajiggo as “the best time in my life” and said he’d never felt more loved. Without her, Michaud told The Salt Lake Tribune that “it feels lonely, and that’s hard. A lot of things remind me of her. There is a lot of small things I miss.”

The couple had planned to buy a home together and have children. Before her death, they felt like they were living “the American Dream,” he said.

Michaud had told The Tribune that he had two goals with the trial: First, to make sure that such an accident would never happen again. And second, to receive enough in damages that he’d be able to continue the work Nakajiggo was doing and initiatives with women and girls, especially in Uganda and “maybe also beyond,” he said.

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