New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RUSSELL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-009-424, Claim No. 99666, Motion No. M-61978


By order to show cause, defendant sought a stay of all proceedings in this claim, pending a determination of a separate declaratory judgment action. The Court denied the application.

Case Information

FREDERICK R. RUSSELL, as Administrator of the Estate of JILL CATHERINE CAHILL, Deceased
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):

Nicholas V. Midey, Jr.
Claimant's attorney:
BY: Thomas F. Shannon, Esq.Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: Louis J. Tripoli, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney General of Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 20, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


By order to show cause, defendant has made application for a stay of all proceedings in this claim, pending the determination of a separate action for declaratory judgment. Oral argument on this application was scheduled for and heard on July 19, 2000.

In addition to the oral argument, the Court has considered the following papers in connection with this application:
Order to Show Cause, Affidavit in Support 1,2

Correspondence dated July 17, 2000 from Thomas F. Shannon, Esq. 3

Following oral argument, this Court rendered its decision from the bench. This decision and order confirms and memorializes that ruling.

This claim was filed January 21, 1999, and alleges acts of negligence, recklessness, and carelessness by the State, resulting in the death of Jill Catherine Cahill on October 28, 1998, when she was a patient at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse, New York. The Court notes that an action arising out of the same set of facts has been commenced in Supreme Court against the provider of security services at the Health Science Center.

The Court was previously advised that depositions of certain State employees of the Health Science Center, as well as an inspection of the center, were scheduled for March, 2000. Shortly before they were to take place, the State discovered a Certificate of Insurance indicating potential liability insurance coverage for this claim. The State therefore requested an adjournment of the scheduled depositions and inspection while it investigated the possible insurance coverage, and claimant's counsel consented to the adjournment.

Several months later, this Court held a conference with counsel for the parties to this claim on June 19, 2000. The Court issued a scheduling order following this conference, dated June 27, 2000. Pursuant to the order, this Court ordered, inter alia, that an inspection of the Health Science Center was to be scheduled and conducted by August 1, 2000. Pursuant to this order, the parties apparently scheduled such an inspection.

Prior to the inspection, defendant submitted to the Court the order to show cause requesting a stay of all further proceedings in this claim pending a determination of a declaratory judgment action being pursued in Onondaga County Supreme Court. By this declaratory judgment action, the State seeks to determine its rights under the aforesaid certificate of insurance, as the insurance carrier has declined coverage for this claim under its policy. The Attorney General argues that participation in the discovery process will completely undermine the State's efforts in the declaratory judgment action. Specifically, the Attorney General argues that if the State is compelled to participate in discovery, undertake the inspection of the facility, and conduct depositions in this claim at this time, such actions will automatically create a defense for the insurance carrier in the declaratory judgment action, which will argue that the rights of the carrier have been prejudiced by the Attorney General undertaking the defense of this claim.

Furthermore, the Attorney General argues that claimant has been afforded a full and fair opportunity to conduct discovery within the context of the separate Supreme Court case against the provider of security services, and therefore claimant will not be prejudiced by any stay of discovery in this claim.

CPLR § 2201 provides that a court "may grant a stay of proceedings in a proper case, upon such terms as may be just." A decision on granting a stay is discretionary with the Court, and involves a balancing of the interests of the parties. A Court should consider such factors as the potential length of a stay, whether discovery is inevitable in any event, and the potential prejudice to each party.

In this claim, the Court finds that the claimant would be more severely prejudiced by a stay than the State would be if it is required to proceed without the stay. The arguments of the Attorney General are based upon a potential prejudice to the State that may possibly be raised as an issue in the declaratory judgment action. However, if the Court were to grant a stay of proceedings in this claim, the prejudice to the claimant would be very real, resulting in an undetermined but extended delay in the discovery process.

It has been approximately 18 months since this claim was filed, and depositions of State witnesses, as well as the inspection of the Health Science Center facility, must still be scheduled and completed. Further delay in such proceedings could very well jeopardize the claimant's ability to prosecute this claim, due to the unavailability of witnesses, as well as their loss of memory regarding the facts of this incident. In fact, it was explained to the Court that certain of these witnesses have since left State employment, creating additional difficulties in locating these witnesses and securing their testimony.

After due and careful consideration, the Court therefore finds and concludes that a stay of all proceedings in this claim should not be granted.

Based on the above, it is hereby

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-61978 is hereby DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED, that pursuant to the request for an extension of time to complete the inspection of the Health Science Center, made by the Attorney General at oral argument, the parties shall have until August 8, 2000, to schedule and complete said inspection; and it is further

ORDERED, that in all other aspects, the scheduling order dated June 27, 2000, shall remain in full force and effect.

July 20, 2000
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims