First District Illinois Appellate Court Says Coadministrator Of Estate Cannot Appeal As An Individual

This wrongful death and survival action was filed on behalf of the estate of Rashidi Walker. Rashidi died during football practice at Northwestern University. His mother, Linda, and his father, George Wheeler, Jr., were coadministrators of Rashidi’s estate.

After lengthy litigation, the trial court approved a settlement of $16 million. Linda appealed the settlement approval. Although she sued only as administrator of Rashidi’s estate, she appealed as administrator and individually as an heir of the estate. Northwestern and George Jr. objected to Linda’s standing to appeal as an individual.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court sided with George Jr. and Northwestern. The court ruled that Linda did not have standing to appeal as an individual. Only the administrators of the estate were allowed to sue in the first place. The appellate court stated: “[I]f they [Linda and two other members of Rashidi’s estate who appealed as individuals] in their individual capacities were not parties to the underlying cause, they in their individual capacities cannot be parties to the instant appeal. Therefore, we find that they do not have standing and we dismiss their appeals.”

Northwestern also argued that Linda waived her right to appeal as coadministrator when she asked the trial court, as an alternative to setting aside the settlement, to compel payment of the settlement plus interest. But the appellate court disagreed, and stated that Linda was properly acting on behalf of the estate, and thus could appeal. “In her coadministrative capacity, Linda, through her motion, was exercising her fiduciary duties to insure that Rashidi’s estate would be protected pending her attempts at appeal, i.e., that Northwestern would be made to pay the money it owed as agreed in the settlement and as ordered by the court and that interest would accrue thereon for the Estate’s beneficiaries were she to be unsuccessful in future challenges to the validity of the settlement.”

The whole case, Will v. Northwestern University, Nos. 1-06-1566, 1-06-1642, 1-06-1643 (12/14/07), is available by clicking here.