Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Domestic Partners of 9/11 Victim get Monetary Awards

In Cruz v. McAneney, (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept) 2006 WL 1174142, the domestic partner of a victim of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, brought suit against the victim’s estate, seeking to recover all or part of a monetary award distributed by the federal Victim Compensation Fund. The defendant, the victim’s brother, moved to dismiss the complaint saying that it failed to state a cause of action.

The court said in pertinent part:

Viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, justice in the instant case could conceivably require the imposition of a constructive trust, and concomitantly show that the defendant, in his personal capacity, would be unjustly enriched if he was also allowed to retain the portion of the Fund's award that was allegedly increased after the plaintiff's application to the Fund and in recognition of the plaintiff's loss of her lifetime partner.

The legislation enacted in our State following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack also lends support to the argument that the plaintiff may be entitled, at least, to the increased portion of the award as compensation for her loss, such as a law providing same-sex domestic partners with certain rights to compensate for the loss of their loved ones due to this specific, horrific event.

The Legislature declared, inter alia, “that domestic partners of victims of the terrorist attacks are eligible for distributions from the federal victim compensation fund, and the requirements for awards under the New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund and other existing state laws, regulations, and executive orders should guide the federal special master in determining awards and ensuring that the distribution plan compensates such domestic partners for the losses they sustained” (L. 2002, ch. 73, § 1).

Although this legislation did not make any changes to this State's intestacy laws, it recognized that domestic partners should be compensated from the Fund for the loss of their loved ones ( see 2002 McKinney's Session Laws 8 N.Y. at 1710).


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