Lauderhill

Family of dean killed in tow-truck accident files lawsuit

 

The lawsuit alleges a tow-truck driver and his employer broke Florida law when Elias Konwufine was crushed under the wheels of his own car as it was being towed from his home.

ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

The family of Elias Konwufine, an associate dean at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Broward Circuit Court against the towing company they say caused his death outside their Lauderhill home last week.

The lawsuit seeks damages from Superior Lock & Roadside Assistance LLC, doing business as Capitol Towing, and a driver identified only as John Doe.

Konwufine, a 38-year-old father of three small children, was run over by his own car after the tow truck driver ignored his pleas to stop the process and “gunned” his truck trying to leave, according to the suit.

Konwufine “grabbed hold of the tow truck as it began to leave because as the tow truck left it swerved into him and was going to run him over,” the complaint states.

He was then dragged by the accelerating truck for several hundred feet, after which Konwufine could no longer hang on and fell under the wheels of his white Mercedes-Benz, the complaint states.

He died at a hospital.

Lauderhill police are investigating Konwufine’s death.

Superior Lock, along with the similarly named Superior Lock & Door Inc., are owned by the Saskin family of Plantation, which has formed (and sometimes later dissolved) numerous towing companies over the years, according to state records.

The company has also left a trail of unhappy customers, as evidenced by multiple lawsuits filed against their firms, and the “F” rating assigned to Superior by the Southeast Florida Better Business Bureau.

Marshall Saskin, one of the family members associated with the towing companies, has been arrested multiple times, records show. Those arrests include a 2002 charge for operating a tow truck without a proper registration number (a third-degree felony), and a 1999 arrest on multiple charges of drug dealing and drug possession.

State records list Saskin as taking a probation plea deal on the drug arrest, and not receiving any penalty for the truck registration charge.

The Saskin family has repeatedly declined to comment.

‘Nothing to say’

“I have an attorney and I have nothing to say to you. I’m sorry,” said a woman answering the phone at Superior on Thursday. She then hung up.

The lawsuit against Superior alleges that the company and its driver violated a Florida law that requires “a person in the process of towing or removing a vehicle . . . must stop when a person seeks the return of the vehicle [which] must be returned upon the payment of a reasonable service fee.”

The removal can continue if, “after a reasonable opportunity,” the owner is unable to pay the service fee, the law states.

The lawsuit alleges the driver never gave Konwufine the chance to offer payment. It also alleges the driver “negligently failed to maintain control of his vehicle,” and “failed to maintain a proper lookout for pedestrians.”

The complaint also states that towing company personnel had a history of using aggressive and threatening tactics against the residents of Sienna Greens, the Konwufines’ development off Inverrary Boulevard, and that “John Doe” had “brandished a firearm at the development only weeks before” and was a “dangerous” man whose behavior the company not only ignored but “promoted and/or condoned.”

Driver’s record

It says the tow truck company failed to investigate “John Doe’s driving record or ability to safely operate the truck,” and “knew or should have known” that he was a danger to pedestrians.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $15,000 on behalf Konwufine’s wife, Francisca, who witnessed the Jan. 16 incident, and their children Lourdes, 9; Lindon, 7, and Liam, 1.

Konwufine’s white Mercedes was being towed that evening because it violated rules set by Sienna Greens’ homeowners association. There has always been a parking crunch at Sienna Greens, where street parking is basically nonexistent and the only guest parking is blocks away.

When Konwufine arrived home that night, his spot in the driveway was occupied by a vehicle belonging to his autistic son’s tutor. Konwufine left his car partly covering the sidewalk and swale.

Viewing and a funeral service are scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Fred Hunter Funeral Home, 6301 Taft St., Hollywood, after which Konwufine’s body will be shipped to his native country of Cameroon for burial.

Read more Broward stories from the Miami Herald

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