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Nineteen days before Sept. 11, 2001, Anwar Wissa Jr. boarded a charter plane at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut and flew with his two children, then 6 and 7, to Cairo, Egypt, keeping them from his ex-wife Cornelia Streeter for 22 months. Now, in a case that’s testing new frontiers in the tort law of Connecticut and Massachusetts, Streeter has been given clearance to sue Ohio-based Executive Jet Management, Inc., and to seek damages for loss of her children’s company or “filial consortium” — a remedy not yet recognized under Connecticut law, but allowed in Massachusetts. Judge Barbara J. Sheedy, on the Waterbury Complex Litigation Docket, denied the airline’s motion for summary judgment on custodial interference and negligence, but eliminated a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. The jet service claimed it owed no duty to Streeter, because it had no knowledge an abduction was taking place. According to Sheedy’s opinion, Wissa made arrangements three days beforehand to pay $160,000 for a flight for himself, the two children and his mother, whose date of birth made it clear she was not the children’s mother. He attempted to pay the entire amount on a corporate American Express card, but was limited to $15,000. Another unidentified individual, who had no family or legal relation to the children, paid the balance. Executive Jet employee Ty Montag, the only official with whom Wissa spoke, testified that neither he nor anyone at the company could remember chartering a flight that expensive before. An aviation expert for Streeter compared the airline to a limo driver who accepts a passenger, running out of a bank with a satchel in his hand, for a $1,000 ride to the airport. Stratford, Conn., attorney Paul A. Lange represents the airline, which relied on the 1998 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Lodge v. Arett Sales Corp. to argue that it owed no duty to Streeter because harm to her was not forseeable. The Lodge case eliminated a $4.4 million jury verdict against an alarm company on grounds the danger was unforeseeable. The plaintiff’s fire engine, responding to a false alarm, slammed into a tree due to a brake failure. Sheedy, however, found the harm to Streeter was a reasonably forseeable consequence of Executive Jet’s conduct. Because Streeter, her ex-husband and children were Massachusetts residents at the time of the abduction, Sheedy decided to selectively apply Massachusetts law, and allow claims for loss of the children’s company. The judge concluded it would not offend state policy to grant Streeter the filial consortium remedy Massachusetts lawmakers adopted to promote the integrity of the family unit, particularly under the “egregious circumstances” of this case. The airline had no policy of requiring parental consent forms for children flying with just one parent at the time of the abduction. Streeter’s lawyers are Barry Pollack, of Boston’s Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, and Eric Gaston, of the Southport, Conn., office of Pepe & Hazard. Pollack said Streeter’s recovery of her children in Cuba two years ago, with the personal intervention of Fidel Castro, was a bit of an international incident. Pollack said Sheedy’s opinion “is further notice to the airline industry that they should implement standards to prevent child abductions, if they haven’t done so already.”

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