New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MONTEIRO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-009-27, Claim No. 105524, Motion No. M-64797


Synopsis


Defendant's motion seeking an order dismissing the claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress was granted.

Case Information

UID:
2002-009-27
Claimant(s):
MICHAEL L. MONTEIRO, AND TWYLA ELLIS-MONTEIRO, AND THEIR MINOR CHILDREN The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Claimant short name:
MONTEIRO
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105524
Motion number(s):
M-64797
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY, JR.
Claimant's attorney:
THE LAMA LAW FIRM, LLP
BY: Luciano L. Lama, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General
BY: Gordon J. Cuffy, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 26, 2002
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Defendant has brought this motion seeking an order dismissing the claim for failure to state a cause of action.

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affirmation, with Exhibits 1,2


Affirmation (in Opposition), with Exhibits 3

Memorandum of Law in Opposition, with Exhibits 4

In this claim, claimants seek damages for severe emotional distress resulting from alleged acts of harassment by fellow officers of claimant Michael L. Monteiro at Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, New York. According to the claim, these acts of harassment commenced after claimant Michael L. Monteiro was suspended and fined for using false pretenses to spend two weeks at "Ground Zero" following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In the claim, claimants allege that, inter alia, Mr. Monteiro has been subjected to verbal harassment while at work, that vile and outrageous poems about him have been circulated throughout the facility, and that the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Monteiro and their family have been threatened, including threats to burn down their home. This behavior is alleged to be "so egregious, outrageous and vile as to shock the conscience of right thinking persons" (see Claim, par. 10).

From a reading of this claim, it is abundantly clear that the only cause of action alleged by claimants is one for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.[1] It is equally well-settled, however, that public policy prohibits any recovery against the State for this tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (Wheeler v State of New York, 104 AD2d 496; DeLesline v State of New York, 91 AD2d 785, lv denied 58 NY2d 610).

Claimants, however, have attempted to distinguish the instant claim from those in which the "public policy" immunity was established or followed. Claimants argue that the "public policy" immunity was established to insure that State employees could do their job without fear of tort liability for their conduct, even if such conduct caused emotional distress to an individual. In other words, as long as the employee was engaged in legitimate State activity, the actual motive behind such activity could not be called into question.

In this claim, however, claimants argue that it is not the motive behind legitimate state activity which forms the basis for their claim, but rather the very actions of various State employees which has caused the injury to claimants.

However, the long-standing public policy prohibiting the imposition of liability against the State for intentional infliction of emotional distress has been upheld in cases involving sexual and verbal harassment against a fellow State employee (see, Brown v State of New York, 125 AD2d 750, lv to appeal dismissed, 70 NY2d 747), as well as in claims alleging verbal harassment of inmates by correction officers (see, Gagne v State of New York, Claim No. 98686, Motion No. M-63259, Decision and Order dated November 30, 2001, Patti, J.). Therefore, the rule is well established that public policy prohibits an action against the State for intentional infliction of emotional distress in performing acts that constitute official conduct, and that such policy is applicable to the instant claim.

Furthermore, however reprehensible the conduct alleged in this claim may be, claimants have identified no other legally cognizable theory of recovery against the State. Accordingly, while not condoning the acts alleged herein, the Court finds that it must dismiss the claim.

Therefore, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-64797 is hereby GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED, that Claim No. 105524 is hereby DISMISSED.


June 26, 2002
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY, JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] Claimants allege that the State, through its officers and supervisors, "intentionally and recklessly caused severe emotional distress to the claimants" (see Claim, par. 16). The reckless infliction of emotional distress, however, is encompassed within the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (Dana v Oak Park Marina, Inc., 230 AD2d 204).