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— Wrongful Death — Survival Damages

Woman killed by husband, estate sought monetary damages

Decision (P) $10,070,785

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

Court Nassau Supreme

Judge Roy S. Mahon

Date 6/15/2005

Plaintiff

Attorney(s)

Charles M. Mirotznik, New York, NY


Defense

Attorney(s)

None reported


Facts & Allegations

In 1996, plaintiff's decedent Ourida Bessaha, an executive chef in her early 50s, 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 via a blunt-force trauma to the head. The incident occurred in her home, which was located at 145 Brittle Lane, in Hicksville.

In March 2001, Mr. Bessaha was charged with the murder of his wife. He was convicted of second-degree murder and given a prison sentence of 25 years to life. He is currently incarcerated at Upstate Correctional Facility, in Malone.

Ms. Bessaha's daughter, Nora Bessaha, 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.


Injuries/Damages

death; blunt force trauma to the head; abrasions

Ms. Bessaha was murdered. She died Jan. 30, 1999, at age 54. She is survived by her husband and two adult children.

The estate's expert pathologist contended that Bessaha's left arm bore signs of bruises and linear abrasions. The expert opined that the wounds were sustained in defense of an attack. She also noted that Bessaha's stomach contained ingested blood and, as such, she determined that the blood had been swallowed prior to Bessaha's death. She opined that Bessaha sustained a significant amount of extraordinary pre-death conscious pain and suffering. She added that she had never investigated a more brutal murder.

Bessaha's estate alleged that Bessaha 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 fees. She also sought recovery of $5 million in damages for her emotional distress.

Result

Judge Roy 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."

Plaintiff(s)

Nora Bessaga
$10,785 funeral burial expense
$60,000 loss of pecuniary contribution
$70,785 plaintiff's total award


Estate of Ourida Bessaha
$5,000,000 punitive damages
$5,000,000 conscious pain and suffering
$10,000,000 plaintiff's total award

Demand None reported

Offer None reported

Insurer(s)
None reported

Plaintiff

Expert(s)
Dr. Mella Leiderman, pathology, Great Neck, NY (Charles M. Mirotznik)

Defense

Expert(s)
None reported
Post-Trial
None reported

Editor's Note
Counsel for Mr. Bessaha was not asked to contribute to this report.

Plaintiff(s)

Demographics

Nora Bessaga
Age: 20 s
Occupation: None reported
Gender: Female
Married: None reported
Children: None reported
Children Description: None reported

Estate of Ourida Bessaha
Age: 54 Years
Occupation: executive chef
Gender: Female
Married: Yes
Children: Yes
Children Description: two adult children

By Jacqueline Linger