New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WALKER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-015-087, Claim No. 96382, Motion No. M-62095


Synopsis


Court denied defendant's motion to preclude evidence by pro se inmate claimant due to technical irregularities of claimant's responses to written interrogatories.

Case Information

UID:
2000-015-087
Claimant(s):
ROBERT WALKER
Claimant short name:
WALKER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
96382
Motion number(s):
M-62095
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Robert Walker, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Carla T. Rutigliano, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 11, 2000
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The motion of the defendant for an order pursuant to CPLR 3126 precluding the claimant from giving evidence at trial due to his failure to comply with the prior order of this Court directing the service of answers to written interrogatories is denied. This is a claim by an inmate appearing pro se to recover the value of items of personal property allegedly lost through the negligence of employees of the Department of Correctional Services. The defendant served written interrogatories upon the claimant on July 23, 1997. The claimant did not serve responses to the interrogatories and defendant moved for an order of preclusion. In a decision and order filed on April 3, 2000 this Court granted the defendant's motion for an answer compelling the claimant to serve answers to the interrogatories within 30 days of the service upon him of a copy of that decision and order with notice of entry. On April 11, 2000, the Attorney General received claimant's answers to the written interrogatories. On April 26, 2000, defense counsel rejected the interrogatory answers as improper and returned them. In a letter dated June 22, 2000, an Assistant Attorney General explained that the answers to the interrogatories were rejected because questions 5 and 7 were not answered, the answers to the interrogatories were not given under oath, and each answer was not preceded by the question to which it responds. This motion ensued.

The policy of the Courts is to resolve litigation upon the merits and the drastic remedies available under CPLR 3126 are only appropriate "where the moving party conclusively demonstrates that the nondisclosure was willful, contumacious or due to bad faith" (Remuneration Planning & Servs. Corp. v Berg & Brown, 151 AD2d 268, 269). The fact that a litigant is dissatisfied with the answers to interrogatories given by the opposing party is insufficient to establish willful or contumacious conduct (Miller v Duffy, 126 AD2d 527). Relief under CPLR 3126 may be denied if the Court determines that a party has substantially complied with a discovery demand (Commerce & Indus. Ins. Co. v Lib-Com, Ltd., 266 AD2d 142). The Court has reviewed the claimant's answers to defendant's interrogatories and finds that the claimant has made a substantial effort to provide the requested information. Furthermore, claimant did provide answers to questions 5 through 7 although not numbered as such. The failure to precede each answer with the question to which it is responding is a technical defect that will be overlooked with respect to this pro se claimant. Finally, while the answers should have been provided under oath, this Court is well aware that notary publics are not always available to inmates and has in the past considered unsworn inmate statements in determining motions. Here, the Court cannot discern any prejudice to the defendant due to the lack of sworn answers and that defect will be overlooked. In summary, the moving party has not established willful or contumacious conduct on the part of claimant and, accordingly, this motion is denied.


October 11, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated July 25, 2000;
  2. Affirmation of Carla T. Rutigliano dated July 25, 2000, with exhibits.