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STANFORD v. KUWAIT AIRWAYS CORP.

October 8, 1986

LORRAINE P. STANFORD, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM L. STANFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
KUWAIT AIRWAYS CORPORATION, et al., Defendants; EDWENA R. HEGNA, EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CHARLES F. HEGNA, Plaintiff, v. KUWAIT AIRWAYS CORPORATION, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KRAM

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRLEY WOHL KRAM, U.S.D.J.

 Defendant Kuwait Airways Corporation ("KAC") has brought this motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in two related cases presently before this Court, Stanford v. Kuwait Airways Corp., 85 Civ. 0447 and Hegna v. Kuwait Airways, Corp., 85 Civ. 2448. These actions were brought in early 1985 by the wives of Stanford and Hegna, respectively, individually and as executrices of their husbands' estates, against KAC, Northwest Airlines, Inc. ("Northwest"), Pan American World Airlines ("Pan Am"), International Air Transport Association ("IATA") *fn1" and Middle East Airlines, for the wrongful deaths of their husbands.

 PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 On March 29, 1985, KAC moved to dismiss both Stanford and Hegna for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Article 28(1) of the "Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air", declaration of adherence by the United States deposited at Warsaw, Poland, July 31, 1934, proclaimed October 29, 1934, 49 Stat. 3000 et seq., T.S. No. 876 (1934) (the "Warsaw Convention"), or, alternatively, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1331 (a)(2)-(4), 1391 (f), 1441(2), 1620-11 (1982). This motion was brought before Judge Sofaer to whom these cases had originally been assigned.

 During the pendency of this motion, KAC engaged in limited discovery, relating only to jurisdictional issues. Judge Sofaer resigned from the Federal Bench in May 1985, without having decided KAC's motion to dismiss, and the Stanford and Hegna actions, with KAC's motion outstanding, were transferred to Judge Sprizzo.

 Due to a conflict of interest with IATA's and Northwest's law firm, Judge Sprizzo recused himself in April 1986. Thus, these actions were assigned to this Court on April 8, 1986, with KAC's motion to dismiss still undecided.

 This Court immediately scheduled a conference among the parties on May 2, 1986, and again, on June 6, 1986, to determine the status of these cases and to discuss discovery disputes. At the June 6 conference, the Court ordered KAC to comply fully with plaintiffs' discovery requests. *fn2" The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has since ordered a stay on all discovery in these actions pending a determination of KAC's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In re Kuwait Airways Corporation, No. 86-3047, slip op. (2d Cir. July 25, 1986). This Court now decides that motion.

 BACKGROUND

 According to the complaints, plaintiffs' decedents, William L. Stanford ("Stanford") and Charles F. Hegna ("Hegna"), were employed by the United States Department of State, Agency for International Development. Both were residents of Virginia and were stationed temporarily in Karachi, Pakistan.

 In late Fall, 1984, Stanford and Hegna purchased airline tickets from a travel agent in Karachi, Pakistan, for flights originating in Karachi, stopping at points throughout the Middle East, including Sanaa, Arab Republic of Yemen ("Yemen"), and ultimately returning to Karachi. Decedents' airline tickets were "open" tickets in that they were not booked onto a specific flight or a particular airline. However, since the tickets were purchased with a United States Government Travel Request ("GTR"), *fn3" the tickets received by Stanford and Hegna were issued on Northwest ticket stock.

 Upon arrival in Sanaa, Yemen, about halfway through their scheduled itinerary, Stanford and Hegna changed their plans and decided to fly back to Karachi from Yemen, with an intermediate stop in Kuwait. Consequently, Stanford and Hegna exchanged the unused portions of their Northwest tickets, and additional funds, for tickets on KAC flight No. 782 from Yemen to Kuwait, and KAC flight No. 221 from Kuwait to Karachi, Pakistan. The actual tickets for the KAC flights were issued on Pan Am ticket stock.

 Stanford and Hegna boarded KAC flight No. 221 in Kuwait on December 3, 1984. Approximately one hour after a refueling stop in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the plane was hijacked by terrorists. Plaintiffs allege that the hijacking occurred while the plane was flying over the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, approximately eighty miles from Karachi.

 The hijackers forced the pilot to land the plane at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, on December 4, 1984. Shortly after the aircraft landed, Charles Hegna was allegedly shot to death by the hijackers. On December 6, 1984, William Stanford was allegedly shot to death ...


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