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Wesolek v. Canadair Limited and Canadair Challenger Marketing

decided: January 27, 1988.


Appeal from final judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, T. F. Gilroy Daly, Chief Judge, dismissing complaint upon magistrate's recommendation where objections to magistrate's report were not timely filed.

Lumbard, Oakes and Kearse, Circuit Judges.

Author: Kearse

KEARSE, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Janet M. Wesolek ("Wesolek"), suing individually and as administratrix of the estate of her late husband Chester S. Wesolek ("Chester"), appeals from a final judgment entered in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, T.F. Gilroy Daly, Chief Judge, dismissing her complaint for damages in connection with Chester's death in the crash of an airplane manufactured and marketed by defendants. The district court, adopting the recommendations of United States Magistrate Joan Glazer Margolis, granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that the action was barred by the substantive law of Quebec and by the statutes of limitations of Quebec or other jurisdictions whose laws might govern. Wesolek contends that the action is properly governed by Connecticut law and is both maintainable and timely under that law. Defendants contend that Wesolek waived her right to appeal the court's adoption of the magistrate's recommendations because she failed to object in a timely fashion, and that, in any event, the magistrate's recommendations were correct. For the reasons below, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


The following facts are not in dispute. In 1976, defendant Canadair Limited ("Canadair"), a Canadian aircraft manufacturer whose principal place of business was in Quebec, agreed to sell a Challenger airplane (the "aircraft") to Jim Walter Corporation ("JWC"); JWC eventually assigned its interest in the sales contract to Chester's employer, Staley Manufacturing Company ("Staley"), an Illinois corporation headquartered in Illinois. The sales contract called for delivery at Canadair's Quebec facility and provided that the agreement was to be governed by Quebec law.

The aircraft was delivered to Staley in Quebec in January 1982. In January 1983, Chester co-piloted the aircraft on a training mission from Illinois to Idaho, where the aircraft crashed and Chester was killed.

In December 1985, Wesolek, a resident of New York, commenced the present action in the district court in Connecticut against Canadair and its subsidiary, defendant Canadair Challenger Marketing Inc. ("Challenger Marketing"), asserting four causes of action for the wrongful death of Chester, based on breach of warranty, negligence, strict liability, and willful and reckless conduct, and one cause of action for loss of consortium. Defendants moved to dismiss on various grounds, and their motion was eventually treated as one for summary judgment.

Defendants contended principally that the controversy was to be governed by the laws of Idaho, the site of the accident, and that under Idaho law an administratrix has no right to sue for wrongful death. Wesolek argued that the substantive law of Connecticut should be applied because (1) Challenger Marketing had its principal place of business in Connecticut; (2) at some point before JWC's assignment to Staley, representatives of JWC, Staley, and Challenger Marketing had held a meeting a Sikorsky Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and (3) after delivery to Staley, the aircraft made its entry into the United States at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

After receiving further briefing on the conflict-of-laws question and on the laws of Idaho and Quebec, the magistrate to whom defendants' motion was referred recommended the dismissal of the complaint. She determined that Connecticut's conflict-of-laws principles required the application of the laws of Quebec, as the jurisdiction having the most significant relationship to the controversy. She found that Quebec law did not permit an action for loss of consortium or an action by an administratrix for wrongful death, and that in any event the suit was barred under the Quebec one-year statute of limitations. The magistrate also concluded that if the laws of Idaho or Connecticut, rather than of Quebec, were applicable, the action would be barred by the pertinent statutes of limitations.

The magistrate's report was filed on March 11, 1987. The end of the report bore the following legend:

See 28 U.S.C. Section 636(b); F. R. Civ. P. 72; Rule 2 of the Local Rules for United States Magistrates, United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.

The provisions cited provide that a party may object to a magistrate's report by filing objections within 10 days of being served with the report. Wesolek did not file objections to the report. Rather, her attorney, Jerry Slater, mailed to Chief Judge Daly's chambers a motion dated April 3, which arrived on April 8, requesting a "seven-day" extension of time to file objections. The motion stated that Slater had been in Florida when the magistrate's report was received in his office, that his partner had only "limited familiarity" with defendants' motion to dismiss, and that Slater had been occupied with other business since his return from Florida. Chief Judge Daly denied the request on the ground that it was untimely and that it failed to comply with Local Rule 9(a)(2), which requires that all motions be filed with the clerk of the court.

Having denied the requested extension, the court noted that there had been no proper or timely objection to the magistrate's report and it adopted the magistrate's recommendations. Judgment was ...

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