TOP VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS OF 2005
Nora Bessaha v. Ali Bessaha
Decision: $10 million
Court: Nassau Supreme, Justice Roy S. Mahon, June 15
Attorneys: Charles M. Mirotznik of New York for the estate of Ourida Bessaha and for the plaintiff; no counsel reported for the defendant.
Facts and 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 Hicksville home.
Mr. Bessaha was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Nora Bessaha, acting individually and as administratrix of her mother's estate, sued Mr. Bessaha. She alleged 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: The estate's expert pathologist contended that Ms. Bessaha's left arm bore signs of bruises and linear abrasions. The expert said the wounds were sustained in self defense. She also noted that Ms. Bessaha's stomach contained ingested blood and, as such, she determined the blood had been swallowed before death. She opined that Ms. Bessaha sustained a significant amount of extraordinary pre-death conscious pain and suffering. She added that she had never investigated a more brutal murder. Ms. Bessaha's estate alleged that Ms. Bessaha was healthy and that she possessed all her faculties. It sought recovery 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 $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.
Justice Roy Mahon found that the plaintiffs' damages totaled $10 million. 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.'