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).