Christopher Bysksi died in 2006 after a traumatic brain injury in a fall that left him in a coma for two years.
Bysksi’s father had co-signed for his son’s student loan of $50,000, and when Christopher died he was informed he was obligated to continue the payments under the terms of the loan agreement. $20,000 was paid out the father’s retirement account, according to Ryan Bryski, Christopher’s brother, reported by abc news.
Finally after fighting for six years, the Key Bank has agreed to forgive the student loan. The family, however, plans to advocate for changing the laws, so others will not to go through what they have from debt collectors.
After their son’s death various lenders continued to call the family and ask to speak to Christopher, despite the family informing them of, first, Christopher's vegetative state, and later, his death.
Bryski said the family lawyer sent "threatening letters" to two credit card companies to put an end to the continual postal mail, always addressed to Christopher, and phone calls requesting payment. Bryski said the credit card companies eventually forgave those debts. And Christopher's student loan from Sallie Mae was forgiven upon his death, according to the federal lender's policies.
But Key Bank, which held the private student loan, ignored requests to pardon the loan, Bryski said.
Change.org made a difference
On April 18, the family started a petition on Change.org after the online petitioning platform contacted the Bryskis. With a petition signed by more than 81,000 individuals requesting to "discharge" the student loan debt, bank executives reached out to the family on April 23 and a settlement was reached on Wednesday, according to Megan Lubin, communications manager at Change.org. Change.org was also behind the petition that got Bank of America to cancel its proposed $5 debit card usage fee.
"My family is very grateful for Key Bank finally contacting us and doing the right thing," Bryski told ABC News. "It's just unfortunate it took eight years and 80,000 signatures to get their attention."
"First and foremost, we are so sorry for the tragic loss of Christopher Bryski," David Reavis, a spokesman for Key Bank, said in a statement.
The bank refused to comment saying, "regularly and continually reviews its practices, policies and procedures to ensure they are aligned with best practices and a constantly changing environment.”
"Going forward, we will evaluate any similar situation involving a deceased student with outstanding loans – and we sincerely hope there are none – on a case-by-case basis," the bank's statement read.
The family has been instrumental in introducing a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives proposing more transparency for families who co-sign loans and improvements in how death and disability policies of financial companies.
"I asked myself what my brother would do. If he had the opportunity to help other people even if it didn't help him, he absolutely would. He was always helping others," said Bryski. "It's unfortunate that we lost him so young."