New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FOUR M v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-151, Claim No. 101273, Motion No. M-63080


Questions of fact regarding facial invalidity of letter purporting to be satisfaction of lien and State's compliance with DMV regulations regarding such satisfaction preclude summary judgment for claimant on claim of car dealership which sold vehicle as lien free based on DMV error.

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:
Anthony M. Miranda, Esquire
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Kathleen M. Resnick, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 10, 2001
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant's motion for summary judgment seeking a judgment determining liability and awarding damages in the amount of $25,413.36, including attorney's fees and disbursements paid by claimant in a related Supreme Court action is denied. The claim alleges negligence on the part of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in releasing a recorded lien and issuing a new certificate of title for a 1993 Jeep Cherokee, VIN # IJ4GZ58S4PC665557. Claimant alleges that the release of lien presented to DMV was facially defective and that the actions of DMV's employees failed to conform to the Department's published vehicle titling requirements (Claimant's Exhibit 4). Claimant seeks to recover the sum of $25,413.36 which includes attorneys fees and disbursements paid by claimant in satisfaction of a judgment issued against it in a separate action in Supreme Court (Exhibits 9 & 10).[1]

The following underlying facts are not in dispute. On January 4, 1997 Antwan Anderson purchased a 1993 Jeep Cherokee, VIN # IJ4GZ58S4PC665557, from Master Motors of Buffalo, New York (Master). Anderson made a down payment of $2,500.00 and financed the remainder of the purchase price ($18,119.20) through an installment payment contract with Arcadia Financial LTD (Arcadia). Arcadia perfected its security interest in the vehicle by filing a lien which was duly noted on a Certificate of Title issued by DMV on February 20, 1997 (Exhibit 2). Anderson made payments on the vehicle in February and March 1997. On February 11, 1997 Anderson submitted to DMV a document purporting to be a letter on Arcadia's letterhead releasing the lien on the subject vehicle, indicating that the security contract was paid in full on February 11, 1997 and further stating that "[t]he original MV 901 was either lost or never received" (Exhibit 3). The letter appeared to be signed by Cheri L. McTernan on behalf of Arcadia's Administrative Department. On March 4, 1997 DMV issued a new certificate of title without any lien noted thereon.

Anderson sold the vehicle to claimant Four M Sales on March 14, 1997. It is alleged that prior to purchasing the vehicle the claimant examined the newly issued title and, upon contacting DMV by telephone, was informed by an employee named Mike that there were no liens of record against the vehicle. On April 21, 1997 claimant sold the vehicle to Richard G. Green, Sr. (Green) who financed his purchase through Pentagon Federal Credit Union (Pentagon).

Since Anderson defaulted on his payments after March 1997 Arcadia's agent repossessed the vehicle on June 13, 1997 from Green who thereafter commenced an action in Supreme Court, Erie County, against Arcadia and the claimant. Arcadia in turn commenced a third party action against Anderson, Pentagon, Master and DMV. The action against DMV was dismissed by the Supreme Court for lack of jurisdiction.

Thereafter, the Honorable Joseph D. Mintz, J.S.C. determined that Arcadia's lien was a valid, perfected, purchase money security interest entitling Arcadia to possession of the vehicle and directed Green, who had been awarded temporary possession of the vehicle on an order to show cause, to return the vehicle to Arcadia. Justice Mintz decided that claimant had purchased the vehicle subject to Arcadia's lien despite both Green's and Four M's lack of notice regarding the lien and ordered Four M to pay Green $1,699.68, which was the amount Green had paid Pentagon under Green's installment loan agreement. The Court further ordered claimant to pay Pentagon $14,641.96, the amount owed Pentagon by Green as of November 12, 1997. This figure included $1,805.80 in attorney's fees paid by Pentagon in defending the Supreme Court action plus interest of $2.81 per day from November 13, 1997 through entry of the order and judgment and at the rate of 9% per annum thereafter until the judgment amounts were paid in full. (See Exhibits 9 and 10).

Claimant appealed to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department which affirmed the order and judgment on May 7, 1999. A motion for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals was denied by order of that Court dated August 31, 1999 (Exhibit 12). The instant claim was filed on October 21, 1999 and claimant now moves for summary judgment. The defendant opposes the motion on the grounds that it is not supported by a sworn affidavit of a person with knowledge of the facts, or by a copy of the pleadings as required by CPLR 3212.

The procedural defects may be addressed summarily. The original affidavit of Michael V. Miranda, Jr. submitted in support of the motion for summary judgment bears both what appears to be an original signature of the affiant and an acknowledgment purportedly executed by a Notary Public qualified in Erie County, New York. The affiant in paragraph "1" states that he is the president of claimant Four M Sales, Inc. and makes the affidavit upon personal knowledge. Defendant also insists that the motion should be denied because the movant failed to attach a copy of the pleadings. Although CPLR 3212 (b) requires that a summary judgment motion be supported by a copy of the pleadings, that mandate is of limited utility in the Court of Claims which is a filing court requiring the parties to file their pleadings with the Clerk of the Court (see, Court of Claims Act § 11; 22 NYCRR § 206.5 and § 206.7). The pleadings are thereafter provided to the judge assigned to the claim pursuant to the individual assignment system and are thus available to the Court when it considers a summary judgment motion. While it may be more convenient for the Court to receive copies of the pleadings as part of the papers submitted on a motion for summary judgment, the absence of the pleadings on such a motion does not compel denial of the motion. Defendant's opposition to the motion on these grounds is unavailing.

With regard to the motion itself the claimant, as the proponent of the instant motion for summary judgment, has failed to carry its burden of establishing entitlement to judgment as a matter of law through the submission of evidence demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of fact (Ives v Allard Chiropractic, 274 AD2d 910). It has not been established that the letter of lien satisfaction was facially invalid. Nor has the movant established that the defendant failed to follow its own guidelines for the acceptance of a letter of lien satisfaction. In fact, the document submitted to DMV appeared to be on printed letterhead of Arcadia Financial Ltd. and included the borrower's name; the year, make and vehicle identification number; the date of release and was signed by an individual who appeared to be acting on behalf of the lien holder (see, Exhibit 4). The fact that the correspondence was not printed on bond paper, was purportedly signed by a representative of Arcadia's administrative department and contained a misspelling of Anderson's name only reflects that genuine issues of material fact exist requiring a trial. This is especially true in light of the affidavit of Rose Ann Harris, Head Clerk of the DMV's Title Services Bureau, submitted in opposition to the motion. Ms. Harris states that letters of lien satisfaction are not required to be printed on original bond paper and that the document submitted to DMV relative to the instant matter contained an original signature in blue ink.

It cannot be said that upon the record before the Court the claimant has established its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law and, for the reasons stated above, the claimant's motion for summary judgment is denied.

May 10, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated February 9, 2001;
  2. Affidavit of Michael V. Miranda, Jr., sworn to February 8, 2001 with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Kathleen M. Resnick dated February 28, 2001;
  4. Affidavit of Rose Ann Harris sworn to February 27, 2001;
  5. Affirmation of Anthony M. Miranda dated March 8, 2001.

[1]All numbered exhibits are attached to claimant's affidavit in support.