New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RUIZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-001-035, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-61605


Synopsis


Claimant's motion for permission to file a late claim is granted.

Case Information

UID:
2000-001-035
Claimant(s):
ILUMINADO RUIZ
Claimant short name:
RUIZ
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
NONE
Motion number(s):
M-61605
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
SUSAN PHILLIPS READ
Claimant's attorney:
Iluminado Ruiz, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Saul Aronson, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 30, 2000
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers were read and considered on claimant's motion for permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10 (6): Notice of Motion, undated and filed March 7, 2000; Affidavit in Support of Iluminado Ruiz, pro se, sworn to March 1 and filed March 7, 2000, with annexed Exhibits 1 and 2; claimant's proposed claim, dated March 22 and filed March 27, 2000; and Affirmation in Opposition of Saul Aronson, Esq., AAG, dated April 4 and filed April 10, 2000.

Claimant Iluminado Ruiz ("claimant") alleges that on December 2, 1999 at Greene Correctional Facility he was attacked in the recreation room when another inmate, whom he did not know, approached him, pulled out a razor blade, and began to confront him. Further, claimant alleges that a Correction Officer observed this but did not intervene until claimant began fighting back in self-defense.

This motion was filed on March 7, 2000, ninety-five days after the events giving rise to the claim. A like action
against a citizen would not be barred by the applicable statute of limitations (CPLR 214)
.

In determining a motion for permission to file a late claim against the State of New York ("defendant" or "the State"), the Court must consider, among
other relevant factors, the six factors set forth in subdivision 6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act: 1) whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable; 2) whether the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; 3) whether the State had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; 4) whether the claim appears to be meritorious; 5) whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or serve a timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State; and 6) whether the claimant has another available remedy. The Court in the exercise of its discretion balances these factors; the presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979).

Claimant states that he did not timely commence his action because he was given incorrect legal advice; therefore, on January 5, 2000, he filed a notice of intention with the Court of Claims rather than serving it on the Attorney-General as required by Court of Claims Act § 11 (a). Because notices of intention are no longer filed with the Court, that document was returned to him on January 20, 2000, with a notice advising him that service on the Attorney-General was still required (Affidavit in Support of Iluminado Ruiz, pro se, dated March 1 and filed March 7, 2000 ["Ruiz Aff."], Exhibit 1). Claimant does not explain why he failed to serve a notice of intention promptly on the Attorney-General, or why during the following two months he failed to initiate a claim, eliminating altogether the necessity for a notice of intention.

Ignorance of the law, including ignorance of applicable time limits, is not an acceptable excuse for delay (see, e.g., Matter of Galvin v State of New York, 176 AD2d 1185, appeal denied 79 NY2d 753; Erca v State of New York, 51 AD2d 611, affd 42 NY2d 854). In addition, neither the fact of incarceration nor the normal conditions of incarceration justify failure to comply with the time requirements of the Court of Claims Act (Bommarito v State of New York, 35 AD2d 458; Plate v State of New York , 92 Misc 2d 1033, 1037-1038). This factor, therefore, weighs against claimant's motion.

In this instance, however, the motion was filed only five days beyond the statutory time limit; therefore, the State has had almost as much notice as the law requires. T
he State can hardly complain of staleness when a section 10 (6) motion is made so few days late (Nyberg v State of New York, 154 Misc 2d 199; Matter of Crawford v City Univ. of N.Y., 131 Misc 2d 1013).
Consequently, defendant's ability to investigate the events underlying the proposed claim has not been compromised, and no prejudice will result if the requested relief is granted. These factors weigh in claimant's favor.

Claimant does not have an alternative remedy available to him. This factor therefore weighs in favor of claimant.

Finally, defendant argues that the proposed claim lacks sufficient apparent merit to warrant its being allowed. The Court disagrees: c
laimant has succeeded in establishing that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective and that there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1). If claimant's allegations are proven and if the period of time between the beginning of the attack and the Correction Officer's intervention is shown to be unreasonably long,
he would have made out a prima facie case of negligence against the State.

Taking into account the six statutorily prescribed factors, the Court finds them to weigh in favor of granting claimant's motion for permission to file a late claim. Claimant is therefore directed to file and serve a claim identical to the proposed claim dated March 22 and filed March 27, 2000 in support of this motion; and to do so in conformity with the requirements of Court of Claims Act §§ 10 and 11 within sixty (60) days after this order is filed.


June 30, 2000
Albany, New York

HON. SUSAN PHILLIPS READ
Judge of the Court of Claims