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HASSANEIN v. AVIANCA AIRLINES

January 10, 1995

ADRIENNE KING HASSANEIN AND RICHARD C. HASSANEIN, Plaintiffs, against AVIANCA AIRLINES, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS C. PLATT

 PLATT, Chief Judge.

 Plaintiffs Adrienne King Hassanein and Richard C. Hassanein ("the Hassaneins") bring this personal injury cause of action against Aerovias Nacionales De Colombia, S.A. ("Avianca"). Mrs. Hassanein claims she is entitled to recover damages from the defendant as a result of suffering severe emotional distress from her exposure to the rescue scene of the Avianca airplane crash in Cove Neck, New York. In addition, she seeks damages for personal injuries and related emotional distress resulting from a fall in her home. Mr. Hassanein asserts a claim of loss of services of his wife incident to her injuries. Lastly, the Hassaneins seek compensation for property damage to their home.

 Avianca now moves for an Order of this Court granting summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants assert that plaintiffs' personal claims are not compensable under New York law. With respect to the property damage claim, Avianca argues that plaintiffs have been compensated fully under their insurance policy. Plaintiffs oppose this motion arguing that they have alleged material facts sufficient to survive summary judgment. Plaintiffs assert that defendant's negligence was the proximate cause of her physical and emotional injuries and that defendant owed her a duty of care under the doctrine of "danger invites rescue."

 For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

 BACKGROUND

 On January 25, 1990, Avianca Flight 052 crashed in the vicinity of Cove Neck, New York. The Hassaneins were neither passengers nor related to any passengers on flight 052. At the time of the crash, Mrs. Hassanein ("plaintiff") was watching television in her home that was located about 50 to 100 yards from the crash site. Mr. Hassanein was in New York City and only learned of the disaster after receiving a telephone call from his wife. Following the telephone call, he drove to the accident site where he met her.

 Upon hearing an explosion, feeling a vibration, and observing a glow, Mrs. Hassanein immediately phoned the police and then her husband. Plaintiff claims that she then left her home and went to the scene of the crash after hearing screams and the sounds of babies crying. On the way to the accident site she found herself standing in calf-deep pools of fuel. She claims she was frozen by the fear of another explosion until she was assisted out of the fuel by a passing fire fighter onto what appeared to be a part of the cockpit of the plane.

 Despite witnessing the carnage at the site, plaintiff maintains that she continued actively to assist the rescuers. She was never physically harmed while there, and she remained at the scene until her husband arrived at 11 p.m. The Hassaneins allowed the police to use their home as an emergency center throughout the night and into the next morning.

 On the other hand, plaintiff claims that she permanently injured her knee in her home three months later as a result of damage to the home from the impact of the crash. Plaintiffs allege in the complaint that "due to the extensive damage done to the premises and property of the plaintiffs, this plaintiff was caused to sustain serious and permanent physical injuries when she was precipitated down an inside stairway." Thus, plaintiffs attempt to link Mrs. Hassanein's alleged physical injury to the impact of the crash. According to the Hassaneins, these injuries have cost them exorbitant hospital fees and caused psychological suffering to Mrs. Hassanein.

 Mr. Hassanein's claims are derivative in that they stem from the alleged loss of services of his wife. He asserts that his own income has been affected by her physical injuries because she is no longer able to assist him with his business. He also claims that his relationship with his wife has been impaired as a result of her emotional and physical injuries.

 Lastly, plaintiffs seek to recover for structural damage to their home. Plaintiffs settled with their insurer, the Vigilant Insurance Company, and received $ 326,546.33 in full settlement of their property damage claims arising out of the Avianca crash. In a separate action, Vigilant has settled for this amount with Avianca. It is not clear from the papers ...


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