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BING v. HALSTEAD

July 2, 1980

Monica BING, Plaintiff,
v.
Ann HALSTEAD, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

MEMORANDUM ORDER

I.

 This is an action for the negligent or intentional infliction of mental distress. Plaintiff requests special damages, an award for pain and suffering and exemplary damages. This action was commenced in the Supreme Court of New York County by personal service of summons and complaint upon defendant, a resident of Arizona, while she was passing through New York. Defendant removed this action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and now moves for summary judgment on the ground that Costa Rican law controls, and that it does not recognize as a tort the conduct alleged in the complaint.

 II.

 For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary judgment is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

 III.

 For the purposes of this motion, the following facts are not in dispute.

 This action arises from the troubled relationships of the Bing family. Plaintiff is the daughter of Maja Bing, deceased, and John Bing. She has two brothers, Andrew and George. Defendant is plaintiff's aunt and the sister of John Bing.

 Since infancy, plaintiff has suffered from a celiac disease and atopic dermatitis, ills which have required medical attention. When plaintiff was fifteen, her parents were divorced and plaintiff went to live with her father. Plaintiff felt that her mother and brothers were aligned against her and that defendant harbored ill will towards her and favored her brothers.

 In October of 1974, when plaintiff was eighteen, she wrote her mother a letter which announced that communications between them from that moment would cease. In order further to insulate herself from family pressure, particularly that of her aunt and her brother George, plaintiff moved to Costa Rica in May of 1975. In Costa Rica, plaintiff enrolled in the university and resided at the home of her family's psychiatrist, who had moved there from New York for his health. She informed no one of her whereabouts except Mildred Netzke, her father's former housekeeper, who forwarded letters to her from New York.

 Plaintiff's mother died in January, 1976. The terms of her will had the effect of making plaintiff the sole beneficiary. Plaintiff was notified of her mother's death, but did not return to the United States at that time.

 Plaintiff's father continued to support her financially by sending checks to Mildred Netzke, who forwarded them to plaintiff. Her father made no effort to locate plaintiff, nor did he know of her whereabouts until March, 1977.

 Defendant, who had moved from New York to Arizona in 1974, wrote a letter dated March 18, 1977 to plaintiff to urge her to share her mother's estate with plaintiff's brothers. *fn1" It is this letter which caused plaintiff's emotional distress. The letter was mailed from Arizona to Chester Inwald, the executor of plaintiff's mother's estate, in New York. Mr. Inwald then sent the unopened letter to Mildred Netzke, who forwarded it to plaintiff in Costa Rica. After reading the letter, plaintiff suffered ills which confined her temporarily to bed and required medical attention.

 Since moving to Costa Rica, plaintiff has been back in the United States six times, although never for more than a week consecutively. On these occasions she saw her father and friends and on most or all of them engaged in activity connected with this litigation. For the purposes of this motion, defendant has conceded that ...


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