Action by Passenger Arrested in Cairo for Possessing Weapon-like
Objects Transported in Checked Baggage from New York
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of an action against EgyptAir
Holding Company and EgyptAir Airlines (collectively
"EgyptAir") brought by a passenger who was arrested and
prosecuted in Egypt for possession of a weapon that had been
carried in his checked baggage on an EgyptAir flight from New
York's JFK Airport to Cairo. Before departing on the
flight from New York, the passenger, Ayman Abdel-Karim, notified
the airline of his intention to transport "weapon-like
objects" in his checked baggage. After the airline
notified the US Transportation Security Administration, Abdel-Karim
was permitted to transport the objects in his checked baggage. Upon
his arrival in Cairo, Egyptian authorities arrested and brought
weapons-possession charges against him.
Abdel-Karim sued EgyptAir in New York, arguing that the airline
should not have allowed him to to check the objects into his
baggage or should have advised him of the legality of carrying the
objects into Egypt under Egyptian law. He asserted state law
claims for breach of contract, negligence and false imprisonment.
(During the pendency of the New York civil action, an
Egyptian court found that his arrest in Cairo was illegal and
dismissed the weapons charges that had been brought against him
there). In a decision reported in our August 2015 newsletter,
the US District Court for the Southern District of New York granted
EgyptAir's motion for summary judgment, deciding that the
plaintiff's state law claims (except his breach of contract
claim) were preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act
("ADA") because the claims were directly related to the
services provided by the airline. The district court
concluded that all of plaintiff's claims were without merit as
he had not demonstrated that EgyptAir "did anything but follow
their own baggage handling procedures."
Upon Abdel-Karim's appeal, the Second Circuit panel agreed
with the district court that the plaintiff's claims were
without merit, and thus the Second Circuit found no need to reach
the question of whether the plaintiff's claims were preempted
by the ADA. With respect to the merits, the court held that
the plaintiff's breach of contract claim fails because
EgyptAir's Conditions of Contract (the only contract between
the parties) did not obligate the airline to prohibit the plaintiff
from transporting the objects or instruct him on foreign law.
Dismissal of the negligence claims also was proper because
there was no evidence that EgyptAir "acted unreasonably in
dealing with Abdel-Karim's luggage." The
plaintiff's false imprisonment claims also could not survive
because EgyptAir did not detain the plaintiff or induce the
Egyptian authorities to arrest him. Abdel-Karim v. Egyptair Holding
Co., No. 15-2772 (S.D.N.Y. filed May 16, 2016).
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