New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SORSBY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-015-292, Claim No. 105980, Motion No. M-65459


Court dismissed claim sua sponte for lack of verification. Pro se claim sought to recover damages stemming from eviction proceeding related to claimant's employment by motel owner. NYSDOL successfully prosecuted wage claims but did not defend claimant in eviction proceeding.

Case Information

JO ANN SORSBY The caption of this claim was amended sua sponte by order of the Court dated August 15, 2002 to name the State of New York as the only properly named defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption of this claim was amended sua sponte by order of the Court dated August 15, 2002 to name the State of New York as the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Jo Ann Sorsby, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Michael W. Friedman, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 16, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The Court sua sponte dismisses the instant claim on the ground that it is not properly verified and is therefore jurisdictionally defective. The dismissal of the claim renders moot claimant's motion to strike the affirmative defense of untimeliness set forth in the defendant's answer and it is denied on that basis. The instant claim seeks to recover money damages arising from the State's alleged negligence which allowed entry of a money judgment dated October 3, 1996 against the claimant in the sum of $5,660.72 plus interest in favor of John and Merle Whitaker. The Whitakers were the owners of the Colonial Court Motel on Lake Shore Drive in Bolton Landing, New York and rented a building (Unit 11) on the motel property to the claimant pursuant to a lease agreement dated October 31, 1995 (Claimant's Exhibit 1). Claimant worked at the motel as a manager and chambermaid and, through the Commissioner of Labor, prosecuted a claim for unpaid wages against the Whitakers as owners of the Colonial Court Motel. The Whitakers in turn commenced a proceeding against claimant to recover possession of their real property for claimant's non-payment of rent. The Whitaker's eviction proceeding resulted in the award of a judgment as noted above and the issuance of a warrant of eviction.

Claimant's unpaid wage claim resulted in an initial finding that Jo Ann Sorsby and her son Patrick Sorsby were in fact employees of the Whitakers and were entitled to recover $7,140.00 and $3,198.00, respectively. The Whitakers appealed the determination to the New York State Industrial Board of Appeals which modified and affirmed the determination of the Commissioner of Labor in a decision dated and filed November 18, 1998.

The Whitakers then commenced a special proceeding in Supreme Court pursuant to article 52 of the CPLR seeking to have the monetary award obtained by the Sorsbys applied to the satisfaction of the judgment resulting from the earlier eviction proceeding. Supreme Court granted the respondent's (the State Department of Labor) motion to vacate its previously issued temporary restraining order and dismissed the special proceeding on March 28, 2000. Subsequent to the dismissal the Sorsbys received payment in the sum of $2,988.00 plus interest of $1,206.33. None of claimant's recovery was applied toward satisfaction of the outstanding judgment and it has continued to accrue interest.

The instant claim alleges that the Department of Labor was somehow negligent in allowing the Whitakers to obtain a judgment against claimant in the eviction proceeding and apparently seeks to recover the judgment amount plus accumulated interest and consequential damages.

Upon its review of the claim the Court perceived a fatal jurisdictional defect in that the claim is not verified in the same manner as a complaint in an action in the Supreme Court as required by Court of Claims Act § 11 (b). Although a verification was prepared in this case and purportedly was even sworn to before a notary pubic it neither identifies the person making the verification nor contains that person's signature and is therefore a legal nullity.

"[T]he Court cannot ignore a defect based upon lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Such a jurisdictional defect can be raised at any time, or even sua sponte" (Jones v State of New York, Ct Cl [Claim No. 102461, Motion Nos M- 63420, M-64075, CM-63515, CM-64103] Fitzpatrick, J., unreported; CPLR 3211 (e); Eckert v Eckert, 34 AD2d 684; Anonymous Town Justice v State Comm. on Judicial Conduct, 96 Misc 2d 541).

Addressing the issue sua sponte the Court finds that the instant claim was not properly verified and the Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the claim. The claim is therefore dismissed and claimant's motion to strike the untimeliness defense set forth in the defendant's answer is denied as moot.

September 16, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion (undated), filed July 8, 2002;
  2. Affidavit of Jo Ann Sorsby sworn to July 5, 2002 with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Michael W. Friedman dated July 15, 2002.