New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DAVALOS v. THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-010, Claim No. 105280, Motion Nos. M-64508, CM-64564


Synopsis


Motion for a default judgment against Hunter College was denied; City University was proper defendant and had answered. Cross-motion to dismiss on the grounds that claim was inadequate pursuant to §11 of the Court of Claims Act was denied.

Case Information

UID:
2002-016-010
Claimant(s):
GABRIELLA DAVALOS The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the City University of New York.
Claimant short name:
DAVALOS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the City University of New York.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105280
Motion number(s):
M-64508
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-64564
Judge:
Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Ginsberg & Broome, P.C.By: Robert M. Ginsberg, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Grace A. Brannigan, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 4, 2002
City:
New York
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The claim of Gabriella Davalos arises from her alleged slip and fall at Hunter College on September 13, 2001. This is claimant's motion for a default judgment against Hunter College and for an order striking the answer of the City University of New York ("CUNY") and the State. Defendant cross-moves to dismiss on the grounds that for the purposes of §11 of the Court of Claims Act (the "Act"), the claim does not adequately describe the manner or location of the accident.

There is no dispute that an answer was filed and served on behalf of the State and CUNY. Claimant seeks a default judgment because there was no answer filed and served by an entity entitled Hunter College. First, it must be noted that the State should not have been named in this case. CUNY and the State are separate and distinct legal entities and the State is not a proper defendant in claims based on the actions of CUNY. See, e.g., Perry v City of New York, 126 AD2d 714, 511 NYS2d 310, 311 (2d Dept 1987), citing, inter alia, Education Law §6203. As to Hunter College, in claims arising at senior colleges of CUNY, the proper defendant is CUNY, not the college itself. See, e.g., Bicjan v Hunter College of the City University of New York, 116 Misc 2d 978, 979, 457 NYS2d 387, 388 (Ct Cl 1982). Accordingly, claimant is not entitled to a default judgment against Hunter College.

As to defendant's specificity arguments, section 11 of the Act provides in relevant part that "[t]he claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, and the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained . . ." In this case, the claim asserts that Davalos fell "at the Hunter East Hallway, Hunter College, 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, Manhattan." Davalos asserts that the floor was being mopped and cleaned and "claimant was caused to slip and/or fall by reason of a dangerous, defective, wet, slippery and otherwise unsafe condition . . ."

In Schneider v State of New York, 234 AD2d 357, 650 NYS2d 798 (2d Dept 1996), dismissal of the claim on §11 grounds was upheld where the claim asserted that claimant had fallen in the picnic area adjacent to the parking area at Heckscher State Park. On its motion to dismiss, defendant submitted a map showing a number of picnic areas near a number of parking areas scattered throughout the park. In contrast, in this case, nothing has been submitted by defendant to suggest that there was more than one Hunter East Hallway, or, e.g., that it was so large that sections were mopped at different times. Note also that this claim deals with a transitory condition, for which the precise location of the fall is less an issue than in the case of, e.g., a defect in a pavement surface.

In Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d 767, 433 NYS2d 646, 648 (4th Dept 1980), it was stated that "[w]hat his required is not absolute exactness, but simply a statement made with sufficient definiteness to enable the State to be able to investigate the claim promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances. The statement must be specific enough so as not to mislead, deceive or prejudice the rights of the State." I find that claimant has complied with this standard with regard to the location and description of the alleged defect.

In view of the foregoing, it is not inappropriate to strike defendant's fifth and sixth affirmative defenses, which assert lack of compliance with §11 of the Act. However, the defendant's remaining affirmative defenses will not be stricken. Affirmative defenses are not dispositive of a claim and like the allegations in a claim, they are merely assertions made by a party. There is no reason to strike affirmative defenses in the absence of prejudice. See., e.g., 5 Weinstein-Korn-Miller, NY Civ Prac ¶3018.14 at 30-410. Claimant has alleged no prejudice in this case or asserted that any scandalous matter is contained in defendant's pleading. See CPLR 3024. Nor has claimant shown that the non-affirmative defense portion of defendant's answer should be stricken.

Accordingly, having reviewed the parties' submissions[1], IT IS ORDERED that motion no. M-64508 be denied except to the extent that defendant's fifth and sixth affirmative defenses are stricken. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that cross-motion no. CM-64564 be denied.





February 4, 2002
New York, New York

HON. ALAN C. MARIN
Judge of the Court of Claims




  1. [1]The following were reviewed: claimant's notice of motion with affirmation in support and exhibits A-C; defendant's notice of cross-motion with affirmation in support and in opposition to claimant's motion with exhibits A-D; and claimant's affirmation in opposition to defendant's cross-motion and in reply on claimant's motion.