New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PARWAR v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-007-516, Claim No. 94772


Claimant seeks damages against defendant for breach of contract and intentional interference with contractual relations. Claim dismissed.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

John L. Bell
Claimant's attorney:
LaFave & Higgins, LLP(Patrick J. Higgins, Esq., of Counsel)
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
(Belinda A. Wagner, Esq., Assistant Attorney General,of Counsel)
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 22, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, Dr. Jahan-Parwar, seeks damages against defendant for breach of contract and intentional interference with contractual relations. Trial of the claim resulted following this court's decision granting claimant's motion to file a late claim to assert causes of action arising from defendant's purported breach of contract. The court denied claimant's motion as to purported intentional torts (
Jahan-Parwar v State of New York, Ct Cl, Aug. 29, 1996, Bell, J.).[1] When claimant rested initially and at the conclusion of the trial, defendant moved to dismiss both causes of action on the ground that claimant had failed to prove a prima facie with respect to each cause of action.
Although the court allowed the parties to present much proof, some of which was only marginally relevant, the operative facts governing disposition of the contentious claim are relatively clear. In 1984, Dr. Jahan-Parwar (hereinafter "Dr. Parwar" as referred to by counsel) entered into discussions with Dr. David Carpenter, who was the Director of Wadsworth Laboratories of the Department of Health[2]
(hereinafter DOH) located in Albany, New York, relative to Dr. Parwar's leaving the Worcester Foundation in Massachusetts and working at Wadsworth Laboratories. Dr. Parwar, who had been trained in medicine and neurology, devoted his professional career to the biological sciences. Dr. Parwar and Dr. Carpenter had previously enjoyed a collegial relationship, and it was apparent that Dr. Carpenter respected Dr. Parwar's ability and wanted him to contribute to projects undertaken at Wadsworth Laboratories.
On May 14, 1984, Dr. Carpenter wrote to Dr. Parwar on the letterhead of the Office of Public Health of DOH to offer him a research position. Specifically, Dr. Carpenter advised:
"It is my pleasure to offer you a position as a Research Physician II, G-35 with Health Research, Inc. and the New York State Department of Health to work on neurophysiological and behavioral aspects of Aplysia within the Center for Laboratories and Research, Albany, New York as of 1 June 1984. This offer is contingent upon your obtaining support for your salary and other resources not covered below."

In reality, Dr. Parwar never became an employee of DOH despite Dr. Carpenter's reference to Dr. Parwar's being offered a position "with Health Research, Inc. and the New York State Department of Health." Health Research, Inc. (hereinafter "HRI") is not a State department or agency but instead is a separate and distinct entity that administers grants for DOH.[3] In the initial years that Dr. Parwar worked at Wadsworth Laboratories, 1984 to 1987, he was paid by HRI and his benefits were administered by HRI. He specifically acknowledged on his employment application that he was not employed by the State and admitted at trial that he had not received salary checks from the State.
To understand further the genesis of Dr. Parwar's relationship with Wadsworth Laboratories reference must also be made to the last sentence of the previously quoted paragraph of Dr. Carpenter's May 14, 1984 letter to Dr. Parwar, which reads: "This offer is contingent upon your obtaining support for your salary and other resources not covered below." Dr. Carpenter further advised Dr. Parwar that laboratory space would be provided for Dr. Parwar's studies as well as access to all support facilities.

Before coming to Wadsworth Laboratories, Dr. Parwar had received a federal research grant while working at the Worcester Foundation and was able to bring that grant with him to satisfy the contingency set forth in Dr. Carpenter's letter of May 14, 1984 relative to Dr. Parwar's obtaining support for his salary. The parties agree that Dr. Parwar was a "soft money" scientist, meaning that his salary support was derived from grants that he obtained in contrast to a "hard money" scientist who was employed directly by the State. Dr. Carpenter testified that a "soft money" scientist was employed on a grant, had no guarantee of public employment and received salary checks from HRI rather than from the State. Upon Dr. Parwar's arrival at Wadsworth Laboratories a laboratory was built for him. The federal grant that Dr. Parwar was allowed to bring with him to Wadsworth Laboratories after he left the Worcester Foundation was not paid directly to him but was administered by HRI, including the payment of his salary and that of an assistant.

Apart from the question of whether Dr. Carpenter had the power to enter into a contract to bind the State to pay Dr. Parwar a salary in excess of $5,000 during the period of his grant without the approval of the State Comptroller[4]
(see, State Finance Law § 112; Parsa v State of New York, 64 NY2d 143, rearg denied, 64 NY2d 885; Campbell v State of New York, 158 AD2d 937, lv denied 75 NY2d 710; Schenker v State of New York, 126 Misc 2d 1038), the federal grant that claimant received and HRI administered expired in 1987. The customary practice was that a scientist who had obtained a "soft money" grant moved on from Wadsworth Laboratories upon the expiration of the grant. Unless claimant were able to establish a contractual relation that was created between him and the State for a period subsequent to the expiration of the grant in 1987, a finding that the State breached any contractual obligation owing to claimant cannot be made. Under no circumstances could any offer contained in Dr. Carpenter's letter and Dr. Parwar's transferring the existing grant to HRI be deemed an enforceable contract of indefinite duration.
Significantly, Dr. Parwar admittedly was unemployed and received no salary between 1987 and 1990. In 1990, a multi-disciplinary grant application submitted by Dr. Carpenter through the Research Foundation of SUNY to the National Institute of Education Health and Sciences (hereinafter "NIEHS"), a federal government grantor, was approved and awarded to the Research Foundation. Like HRI, the Research Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation. Dr. Parwar had participated in preparing one phase of the grant application and became an employee of the Research Foundation when the grant was made. The grant, commonly known as the "Superfund I" grant, was awarded for the period April 1, 1990 to March 31, 1992. Dr. Carpenter was the principal administrator and investigator of Superfund I, and Dr. Parwar and scientists from DOH, Syracuse University and SUNY Oswego participated in working on various sub-projects of the grant. Another competitive grant, referred to as "Superfund II," was awarded to Dr. Carpenter for the period April 7, 1992 to March 31, 1995. Dr. Parwar worked under Dr. Carpenter on Superfund II.

In 1985, Dr. Carpenter became Dean of the School of Public Health, which was a joint venture between DOH and SUNY. Dr. Herbert Dickerman, now deceased, succeeded Dr. Carpenter as Director of Wadsworth Laboratories and, in 1992, Dr. Lawrence Sturman replaced Dr. Dickerman. Prior to becoming the Director, Dr. Sturman had worked previously at Wadsworth Laboratories while Dr. Carpenter was the Director. Unfortunately for Dr. Parwar, Dr. Sturman had a philosophy different from that of Dr. Carpenter with respect to "soft money" scientists, also sometimes referred to as guest scientists or volunteers, who worked at Wadsworth Laboratories. Dr. Sturman decided that only DOH and HRI "hard money" employees would be permitted to work at Wadsworth Laboratories. Thus, in the fall of 1993, Dr. Sturman advised Dr. Carpenter of his decision that Dr. Parwar would be required to leave the laboratory. Although Dr. Carpenter argued vigorously that Dr. Parwar should be permitted to stay and use laboratory space assigned to Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Sturman remained adamant concerning his decision and advised Dr. Parwar that he would no longer have laboratory space and would be required to leave in approximately four months. The proof presented at the trial, including Dr. Parwar's testimony, demonstrated to the court that Dr. Parwar, upon being forced to leave Wadsworth Laboratories, developed severe depression and that such depression still remains as a result of his ouster.

Although Dr. Parwar was required to leave Wadsworth Laboratories on March 31, 1994, he received pay from the Research Foundation until March 31, 1995, which marked the end of "Superfund II." Indeed, since Dr. Parwar no longer had an assistant between March 31, 1994 and March 31, 1995 he received more monies under the grant than that which he had made previously. His efforts to secure laboratory space in other buildings in the capital district proved unsuccessful, primarily, in the court's view, because of his depression and inability to cope with his being required to leave Wadsworth Laboratories. Dr. Carpenter essentially testified that Dr. Parwar did not actually need such space to complete what was required to be accomplished for Superfund II; namely, analyzing data and preparing reports. Dr. Carpenter testified that as regards the research reports and documents that had to be submitted to NIEHS to complete the Superfund II project, he essentially completed the reports and documents that Dr. Parwar would have assisted in preparing were it not for his depressed mental state.

Despite Dr. Carpenter's justifiable belief that Dr. Parwar was being treated unfairly by Dr. Sturman, the fact remains that Dr. Parwar was paid until the end of Superfund II. Although Dr. Carpenter was successful in securing a Superfund III grant for another five-year period following the end of Superfund II on March 31, 1995, claimant had no contractual interest in Superfund III and was not guaranteed to be a participant in the work undertaken under Superfund III. Thus, apart from the State's contention that State Finance Law § 117 interdicts the validity of any contractual relationship urged by Dr. Parwar, the inescapable conclusion is that Dr. Parwar had no contractual relationship with defendant at any time that would give rise to a viable cause of action.

Although claimant further contends that DOH intentionally interfered with what he denominates a contractual relationship, the court's decision to permit claimant to file a late claim was intended only to permit claimant to assert a contractual cause of action(s) rather than a tort. In any event, claimant failed to prove any tort of interference with contractual relations, which requires (1) existence of a valid contract, (2) defendant's knowledge of the contract, (3) defendant's intentional procuring of the breach, and (4) damages (
Lama Holding Co. v Smith Barney, 88 NY2d 413; NBT Bancorp v Fleet/Norstar Fin. Group, 87 NY2d 614). Claimant had no contractual relationship with defendant when Dr. Sturman advised him that he would no longer be permitted to occupy laboratory space at Wadsworth Laboratories after March 31, 1994, and defendant did not intentionally cause the breach of any alleged contract with NIEHS. Nor is there any proof that the contract between NIEHS and the Research Foundation was for Dr. Parwar's benefit so that it should be concluded that Dr. Parwar was a third-party beneficiary of the contract (see, Burns Jackson Miller Summit & Spitzer v Lindner, 59 NY2d 314, 336-337).
Defendant's trial and post-trial motion to dismiss the claim is granted. The Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

May 22, 2000
Plattsburgh, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The court specifically rejected claimant's purported causes of action sounding in abuse of process, false imprisonment and fraud, which, in fact, were not alleged as separate causes of action in the proposed claim.
Wadsworth Laboratories is the common name of the Center for Laboratories and Research.
In its decision granting claimant's motion, the court determined that it had no jurisdiction over HRI, DOH and the State University of New York (hereinafter SUNY) at Albany.
In 1992, State Finance Law § 112(3) was amended raising the amount requiring approval by the Comptroller to sums exceeding $10,000 (L. 1992, ch 319, § 2).