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New York Law Journal

VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS
INTENTIONAL TORTS

Nora Bessaha v. Ali Bessaha, No. 3595/04

Decision: $10 million

Court: Nassau Supreme, Justice Roy S. Mahon, June 15, 2005

Attorneys: Charles M. Mirotznik of Manhattan for plaintiff; none reported for defense.

Facts and Allegations: In 1996, plaintiff's decedent Ourida Bessaha, an executive chef, sought a divorce from her husband, Ali Bessaha. On Jan. 30, 1999, several days before a hearing that could have determined division of the couple's million-dollar assets, Ms. Bessaha was murdered in her Hicksville home via a blunt-force trauma to the head.

In 2001, Mr. Bessaha was charged with the murder, was convicted and given a prison sentence of 25 years to life. He is currently incarcerated.

Ms. Bessaha's daughter, Nora, acting individually and as administratrix of her mother's estate, sued Mr. Bessaha. She alleged that her mother's death was the result of her father's deliberate, intentional attack.

Mr. Bessaha defaulted, and the matter proceeded to a damages inquest.

Ms. Bessaha's estate alleged that she was healthy and that she possessed all of her faculties. It sought recovery of a total of $5 million in damages for her wrongful death and her conscious pain and suffering. It also sought $5 million in punitive damages.

Nora Bessaha sought recovery of a total of $5 million in funeral expenses, estate fees, taxes and attorney's fees. She also sought recovery of $5 million in damages for her emotional distress.

Result: Justice Mahon found that the plaintiffs' damages totaled $10,070,785. He remarked that the judgment sent "a clear and unequivocal message to purveyors of domestic violence, that such conduct carries not only penal, but severe financial sanctions as well.'