New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MAHER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-019-023, Claim No. 97335


Claimant a pro se inmate brought claim for injuries arising from an inmate-on-inmate attack. Requested an adjournment of trial after three years saying discovery was not complete. Court did grant the request. Claim dismissed for failure to prosecute pursuant to 22 NYCRR 206.15

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:
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Michael C. Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 19, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, seeks compensation for injuries sustained as a result of an inmate-on-inmate assault while incarcerated at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility on November 18, 1996. From this record, it appears a Notice of Intention was served on the Attorney General's office on December 24, 1996; the Claim was filed on November 13, 1997; and a Verified Answer was filed on December 19, 1997. By letter dated July 5, 2000, the Court advised both parties that the trial of this Claim would commence on Tuesday, August 15, 2000 at Sullivan Correctional Facility.

Claimant submitted a letter to the Court dated July 7, 2000 requesting an adjournment of said trial date stating:
Please be advised that this case is not ready for trial. There is still outstanding discovery that I have been trying to resolve for some time now. The defendants have failed to respond to numerous demands.

(Court's Ex.1). The Court denied Claimant's request for an adjournment in a letter dated July 14, 2000 in light of the fact that Claimant never pursued, among other things, a motion to compel compliance with any allegedly outstanding or inadequate discovery. (Court's Ex. 2). Thereafter, Claimant submitted a second request for an adjournment again reiterating that the State of New York (hereinafter "State") had failed to respond to his Demand for Interrogatories dated November 12, 1998 and Demand for Documents dated February 15, 1998. (Court Ex. 3). The Court's file, however, contains the State's Response to Claimant's Demand for Documents dated September 18, 1998. Finally, the Court has received from Sullivan Correctional Facility a signed statement from Claimant in which he refuses to attend his scheduled trial date of August 15, 2000 due to "discovery of claim not complete-unprepared for trial". (Court Ex. 4).

It is well-settled that "[a]pplications for adjournments are addressed to the discretion of the trial court." (Borak v Karwowski, 151 AD2d 454, 455, lv dismissed 74 NY2d 893). In exercising its discretion the Court undertakes a balanced consideration of all relevant factors including, but not limited to: whether a claimant possesses a meritorious cause of action; prejudice or the lack thereof resulting from an adjournment; the intent or lack of intent to abandon the action; and whether the need for the adjournment could have been obviated upon due diligence. (Wilson v Wilson, 97 AD2d 897; State of New York v Massapequa Auto Salvage, 267 AD2d 679, lv denied 95 NY2d 753). Assuming, arguendo, this Claim to be meritorious the Court finds that Claimant's own lack of due diligence in pursuing discovery caused the need for this last minute request for an adjournment. It appears Claimant made only 2 discovery requests in the 3 years this Claim has been pending. Moreover, the record does not reflect any correspondence from Claimant to the State attempting to resolve discovery disputes nor did Claimant ever file a motion to compel such compliance. In short, it appears Claimant filed this Claim in 1997 and made 2 discovery requests in 1998, but has done nothing further relative to this matter since that time. In sum, this Claim cannot be viewed as an "actively prosecuted action" in which legitimate delays in pursuing discovery might warrant a delay of the trial. (Heist v Cameron, 211 AD2d 429, 430). To the extent Claimant's letters attempt to blame the State for engaging in dilatory tactics such blame is unsupported by this record.

State's counsel Michael C. Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General, informed the Court that the State was ready to proceed to trial and moved to dismiss the Claim pursuant to the Uniform Rules for the Court of Claims (22 NYCRR) § 206.15. Claimant, however, has failed to appear and is not ready to proceed. Consequently, upon and after reviewing the aforementioned considerations, the Court will exercise its discretion and grant the State's motion to dismiss.

In light of the foregoing, it is ORDERED, that Claim No. 97335 is DISMISSED pursuant to the Uniform Rules for the Court of Claims (22 NYCRR) § 206.15.

September 19, 2000
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims