New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SCOTT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-012-514, Claim No. 101879, Motion No. M-61385


Defendant's motion to dismiss on grounds of untimeliness is denied. Additionally, the amendment of Court of Claims Act . Additionally, Court of Claims Act section 10(9), which provides that an inmate may not file a claim for the loss of personal property until he or she has exhausted the administrative remedy provided by the Dept. of Correctional Services, and which is effective on December 7, 1999, does not apply to a claim where claimant had already served his notice of intention to file a claim prior to the effective date of the statute.

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):

Claimant's attorney:
Elteadro Scott, pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney Generalby: Reynolds Hahn, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 6, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The court considered the following papers in connection with this motion:

Notice of Motion, Affirmation and Exhibits

Claimant's Reply to Motion to Dismiss

Claimant alleges that he was the victim of an assault at the Orleans Correctional Facility on February 1, 1998, that he was taken to the facility's infirmary on that date, and that when he was returned to his dormitory the following day and his property was returned to him, certain items were missing. He seeks damages of $539.40 for the missing property. Claimant states that he " left behind his property that was then in the care of the officer on duty in the unit" and that the officer failed to properly secure the property (Claim, ¶2). In his notice of intention to file a claim, claimant relates that "upon receiving [his] property the next day," he noticed that some of his property was missing. The notice of intention was served on April 27, 1998, within 90 days following accrual, thus giving claimant until two years following accrual to serve and file his claim (Court of Claims Act § 10[3]).

Although the claim was filed on January 31, 2000, it was not served on the defendant (i.e., received by the defendant) until February 2, 2000. Based on the statement contained in paragraph 4 of the claim that "The claim accrued on the 1 day of February 1998," defendant moves to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the claim was served more than two years following accrual. However, it is clear that, under the circumstances set forth in claimant's papers, the claim did not accrue until claimant's property was returned to him (with some of the property missing) on February 2, 1998 (see, Rahanian v Ahdout, 258 AD2d 156), regardless of claimant's mis-statement of the accrual date. Thus, service on February 2, 2000 was within two years after accrual, and to the extent that the motion is based on alleged untimely service of the claim, it is denied.

Defendant also argues that the claim is defective in that "claimant does not allege that he has exhausted the personal property claims administrative remedies established by the Department of Corrections, as now required by Court of Claims Act, Section 10, subdivision 9." This section, newly enacted in Part D of Chapter 412 of the Laws of 1999 on August 9, 1999, and effective by its terms "120 days after it shall have become a law" (id., ¶ 4), provides that a claim of an incarcerated inmate for damages for injury to or loss of personal property "may not be filed unless and until the inmate has exhausted the personal property claims administrative remedy, established for inmates by the department [of correctional services]. Such claim must be filed and served within one hundred twenty days after the date on which the inmate has exhausted such remedy." Defendant's position is that since the instant claim was not interposed until after the effective date of Part D of Chapter 412, it is jurisdictionally defective because it fails to allege exhaustion of the administrative remedy.

Prior to the amendment to the Court of Claims Act effectuated by Chapter 412, Part D, the requirements applicable to a personal property claim of an inmate were the same as those applicable to claims for injury to property generally: i.e., the claim had to be served and filed within 90 days of accrual unless a notice of intention was served during such period, in which case the claim had to be interposed within two years of accrual (Court of Claims Act § 10[3]). As noted above, claimant has satisfied those requirements. Thus, the question becomes whether the enactment of Chapter 412 after claimant served his notice of intention, but before he served and filed his claim, affected his right to bring this action.

It has long been a basic rule of statutory construction that absent a clear indication of intent to the contrary, a newly-enacted statute or an amendment to a statute is to be given prospective application only (McKinney's Cons. Laws of New York, Book 1, Statutes §§ 51, 51; Mulligan v Murphy, 14 NY2d 223; Sessa v State of New York, 63 AD2d 334). This is particularly so where, as here, the statute has an effective date in futuro, which is deemed a clear indication of legislative intent that the statute is not intended to be applied retroactively (Deutsch v Catherwood, 31 NY2d 487).

Applying these principles to the situation at bar, it is clear that the defendant's contention that the instant claim is jurisdictionally defective by virtue of claimant's apparent failure to exhaust the "personal property claims administrative remedy" cannot be sustained. Following his alleged loss on February 2, 1998, claimant followed the procedure as it existed on that date; i.e., he served a notice of intention to file a claim on the defendant in a proper and timely manner. At that point, he had until February 2, 2000 in which to serve and file his claim, without regard to any administrative remedy. There is no question that he could have done so at any time prior to December 7, 1999. To hold that the new legislation, effective on that date, extinguished his right to interpose his claim notwithstanding that there were approximately two months remaining on the original two-year period would be an anomalous result, not required or even indicated by the statutory language.

Moreover, the interpretation urged by the defendant herein could have the effect of opening the door to the resurrection of other claims, long since time-barred under the old statutory scheme. What would prevent potential claimants with alleged property losses that had occurred months or even years prior to December 7, 1999, who had not acted to preserve their right to file a claim under the old law, from now simply filing an administrative personal property claim with the correctional facility and after it was denied (perhaps on timeliness grounds) then bringing a claim in the Court of Claims under the new procedure, within 120 days after the administrative determination. Obviously, this would be an absurd result. Equally absurd is an interpretation that the claimant herein, who followed the law as it existed at the time of his alleged loss, somehow lost the right to bring a claim that he had taken every step to preserve by virtue of a legislative change in the law that, by happenstance, became effective before he completed the initiation of his action.

Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, the defendant's motion is denied in all respects.

June 6, 2000
Buffalo, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims