New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GIANNATTASIO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-001-034, Claim Nos. 97741, 100199, Motion No. M-63325


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2001-001-034
Claimant(s):
GREGORY GIANNATTASIO
Claimant short name:
GIANNATTASIO
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
97741, 100199
Motion number(s):
M-63325
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Susan Phillips Read
Claimant's attorney:
Gregory Giannattasio, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Frederick H. McGown, III, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 25, 2001
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers were read and considered on claimant's motion to restore his claims to the trial calendar: Notice of Motion, sworn to March 22 and filed April 2, 2001; Affidavit in Support of Motion of Gregory Giannattasio, pro se, sworn to March 22 and filed April 2, 2001, with annexed Exhibit A; Affirmation in Opposition of Frederick H. McGown, III, Esq., AAG, dated and filed April 19, 2001; Claim No. 97741, dated January 22 and filed February 2, 1998; and Claim No. 100199, dated December 16, 1998 and filed April, 19, 1999. These two claims were dismissed by this Court by orders filed December 30, 1999 after claimant Gregory Giannattsio ("claimant") failed to appear for a calendar call held on December 16, 1999, or to advise the Court of his intention to continue the actions. The claims emanate from two separate incidents supposedly occurring in Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") vehicles in which claimant was being transported. In Claim No. 97741, claimant alleges that on January 30, 1997 he was trapped in an evidently broken-down prison bus for over three hours without heat or the opportunity to relieve himself (Claim No. 97741, dated January 22 and filed February 2, 1998, ["claim 97741"] ¶¶ 7-9 ). Prior to the stop, claimant also alleges, the van became full of carbon monoxide smoke (id., at ¶ 5). He seeks $500,000 for "negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress" (id., at ¶ 11). In Claim No. 100199, he seeks damages for personal injuries he allegedly sustained when a DOCS van struck the back of another vehicle while transporting him to Ulster Correctional Facility (Claim No. 100199, dated December 16, 1998 and filed April, 19, 1999 ["claim 100199"], ¶¶ 2-6).

Claimant informed the Court of a change of address by letter received March 4, 1999. The letter explained that he was being released on parole from Watertown Correctional Facility on March 3, 1999, and that his new address would be "29 Gold Street, Valley Stream, New York 11580." Approximately eight months later, the Court informed claimant by letter dated November 10, 1999 that his claims would be called at an upcoming calendar call to be held on December 16, 1999. Claimant was advised either to notify the Court by mail of his intention to continue the actions or to be present at the Court on December 16, 1999. Failure to reply, or appear, he was warned, might result in the dismissal of his claims.

Claimant did not respond to the letter or show up at the calendar call and, accordingly, defendant State of New York ("defendant" or "the State") moved for dismissal pursuant to 22 NYCRR 206.15. By order filed December 30, 1999, the Court granted the State's motion and dismissed the claims for claimant's failure to appear (Giannattasio v State of New York, Ct Cl, unreported orders filed December 30, 1999, Read, P. J., Claim Nos. 97741 and 100199).

On December 22, 2000--nearly a year later--the Court received a letter from claimant asking about the status of his claims. This letter was addressed from the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow. The Court updated claimant's address in its database and by letter dated January 30, 2001 informed him that his claims had been dismissed. On April 2, 2001, claimant filed this motion to restore his claims to the trial calendar[1]

Claimant explains that during the relevant time period he was, indeed, living at the address that he gave the Court upon his release from Watertown Correctional Facility--29 Gold Street, Valley Stream, New York 11580--and that he remained at that address until several months after the orders dismissing the claims were rendered (Affidavit in Support of Motion of Gregory Giannattasio, pro se, sworn to March 22 and filed April 2, 2001, with annexed Exhibit A ["Giannattasio Aff."], ¶ 5). Claimant also states that he telephoned the Court on at least one occasion to inquire about his claims' status (Giannattasio Aff., ¶ 6). Claimant insists that he never received any notice that his claims had been scheduled for the calendar call (Giannattasio Aff., ¶ 7); therefore, he argues that the cause for his default "lays upon the . . . ‘lack of due service' " (Giannattasio Aff., ¶ 9), apparently referring to his alleged failure to receive notice of the calendar call.

The State opposes claimant's motion arguing that the claims should not be restored because claimant has failed to provide a reasonable excuse for his default and more than one year has passed since the claims were dismissed (Affirmation in Opposition of Frederick H. McGown, III, Esq., AAG, dated and filed April 19, 2001 ["McGown Aff."], ¶ 3). Defendant notes that while claimant was outside of custody he did not show any interest in his claims and that he failed to inform either the Court of Claims or the Office of the Attorney-General of any change in mailing address (McGown Aff., ¶ 4). The State additionally argues that claimant has failed to provide an affidavit of merit for either claim (McGowan Aff., ¶¶ 5-6).

Court of Claims Act § 19 (3) provides that "[c]laims may be dismissed for failure to appear or prosecute or be restored to the calender for good cause shown, in the discretion of the court" (see, 22 NYCRR 206.15; see also, CPLR 5015 [a] [1]). Where there is no evidence of willfulness or inattention on the part of the party in default, lost or misplaced mail has been deemed a reasonable excuse (see, Chase Manhattan Automotive Fin. Corp. v Allstate Ins. Co., 272 AD2d 772; Wilcox v U-Haul Co., 256 AD2d 973; Hann v Morrison, 247 AD2d 706).

Here, claimant avers that he never received notice of the calendar call although he was admittedly living at the address to which the Court sent the notice (Giannattasio Aff., ¶ 9).[2] Assuming for the sake of this motion that claimant did not receive the notice and that the nearly 15-month delay between dismissal and this motion is reasonable, he still must demonstrate both a reasonable excuse and a meritorious cause of action when seeking to vacate an order based upon an excusable default (see, Cippitelli v Town of Niskayuna, 277 AD2d 540; Tiger v Town of Bolton, 150 AD2d 889, 890).

So much of claim 97741 as alleges that claimant inhaled carbon monoxide while sitting in the DOCS van and claim 100199, which alleges that he was injured during a DOCS van collision, are encompassed by the statutory requirements of New York's no-fault insurance law (see, Insurance Law § 5101, et seq.). As a passenger in the DOCS vehicle whose alleged injuries arose "out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle" (Insurance Law § 5102 [b]), claimant has a burden of making a threshold showing of serious injury as defined by Insurance Law 5102 (d)[3] (see, Licari v Elliott, 57 NY2d 230; Pierre v State of New York, Ct Cl, Marin J., UID # 2000-016-112).[4]

Here, the most generous reading of claimant's conclusory and vague statements of his injuries fails to make this threshold showing (see, claim 97741, ¶¶ 13-16; claim 100199, ¶¶ 15-17 ["experiences a conglomeration of medical problems which appear to be directly related to [the] vehicle accident"]). Claimant has provided nothing objective to substantiate any injuries, only nebulous statements (see, e.g., Pierre v State of New York, supra; Notarfrancesco v State of New York, Ct CL, Ruderman J., UID # 2001-010-122; Weinstein v State of New York, CT CL, Marin, J., UID # 2000-016-075; compare, Caro v State of New York, CT CL, Nadel, J., UID # 2001-014-511 [physician's affidavit establishes claimant has sustained serious injury, merit found]).

The acts alleged in the remaining portions of claim 97741 do not rise to the level of pleading an intentional infliction of emotional distress. That is, the acts complained of do not approach conduct that was "‘so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community'" (Murphy v American Home Prods. Corp., 58 NY2d 293, 303, quoting Restatement [Second] of Torts § 46, comment d). Nor does the Court find a meritorious cause of action stated within the remainder of that claim.

Based on the foregoing, the Court denies claimant's motion to restore his claims to the trial calendar.


June 25, 2001
Albany, New York

HON. SUSAN PHILLIPS READ
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]Based on these motion papers, claimant now appears to be housed at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY.
[2]There is no record of returned correspondence in either claim file.

[3]Insurance Law § 5102 (d) defines "serious injury" as "a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person's usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment."

[4]This decision, and many other decisions of the Court of Claims, can be found by following a link on its website at http://www.nyscourtofclaims.state.ny.us/decisions.