New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HENDERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-016-078, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-62102


Late claim motion of pro se inmate alleging improper medical treatment was denied.

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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
James Henderson
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Earl F. Gialanella, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 25, 2000
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This is the motion of James Henderson for permission to file a late claim pursuant to §10.6 of the Court of Claims Act (the "Act"). In his proposed claim, Henderson asserts that the Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") improperly treated him in connection with liver problems from which he suffers. In determining whether to grant this motion, the six factors enumerated in the Act must be considered. The factors are not necessarily exhaustive, nor is the presence or absence of any particular one controlling[1]: whether (1) the defendant had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; (2) the defendant had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; (3) the defendant was substantially prejudiced; (4) the claimant has any other available remedy; (5) the delay was excusable and (6) the claim appears to be meritorious.

The first, second and third factors -- whether the state had notice of the essential facts, whether the state had an opportunity to investigate and whether the state would be prejudiced by the granting of this motion are intertwined and may be considered together. See Brewer v State of New York, 176 Misc 2d 337, 342, 672 NYS2d 650, 655 (Ct Cl 1998). With regard to this factor, claimant states that the state had notice of his claim because "numerous employees of the medical department and psychiatric unit that treated Claimant were aware of his failing liver, and failed to institute proper treatment . . ." However, defendant's awareness of claimant's medical condition did not necessarily put defendant on notice that Henderson had any claim against the state. On the other hand, documentation presumably exists as to Henderson's treatment which would allow defendant to investigate and prepare its defenses. At best, Henderson barely satisfies the notice-opportunity-investigation of the Act.

As to an alternative remedy, it is undisputed that a claim against the state lies solely in this Court, although defendant points out that outside physicians may have treated claimant. As to excuse, Henderson states that he was unaware of the filing requirements of the Court of Claims. Unfamiliarity with the law does not excuse late filing. See, e.g., Matter of E.K. (Anonymous) v State of New York, 235 AD2d 540, 652 NYS2d 759 (2d Dept 1997). Henderson also states that his medical condition incapacitated him and apparently prevented him from timely filing. However, he has not provided medical records or a doctor's affidavit to demonstrate that he was incapacitated for the entire statutory period. See, e.g., Goldstein v State of New York, 75 AD2d 613, 427 NYS2d 63 (2d Dept 1980). In short, Henderson does not have a satisfactory excuse for the purposes of the Act.

The final factor to be considered is the merit of the claim. Claimant asserts that on July 27, 1999, Sullivan Correctional Facility "medical staff found his liver in a grave and critical condition deemed to be terminal" after which he was transferred to the "Terminal Illness unit" at Coxsackie Correctional Facility. He asserts that prior to that date, he had been diagnosed by medical staff at Sullivan Correctional Facility as having a "failing liver due to the diminished ammonia levels in his liver" but did not receive any treatment prior to July 27, 1999. He also states that on April 21, 1999, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis A and C, and received no treatment. Claimant has submitted no physician's affidavit and only seven pages of medical records, most of which are from July 1999. (The only earlier records are an April 19, 1999 test result on which "Hep A,C" is written and June 25, 1999 "Progress Notes." The Progress Notes contain multiple medical abbreviations and it is impossible to discern whether they include references to the claimant's liver problems.) Notes from January 5, 2000, after claimant's July 27, 1999 transfer to Coxsackie state that "[c]urrently, [Henderson] is being considered for tx. of Hep. C." In short, the quantity and quality of the records submitted do not, on their face, indicate any flaws in treatment or lack of treatment. Without a physician's affidavit or complete medical records, Henderson's claim does not satisfy the factor relating to merit.

For the foregoing reasons, having reviewed the parties' submissions[2], IT IS ORDERED that motion no. M-62102 is denied.

September 25, 2000
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] See Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV, Inc. v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979, 449 NYS2d 185 (1982); Scarver v State of New York, 233 AD2d 858, 649 NYS2d 280 (4th Dept 1996).
  1. [2]The following were reviewed: claimant's notice of motion with affidavit in support with Exhibit A and proposed claim; defendant's affirmation in opposition; and claimant's "Traverse to Defendant's Affirmation in Opposition with Exhibits A-C.