New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LASANE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-027, Claim No. 97544, Motion No. M-63575


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:
Arthur M. Unterman, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Victor J. D'Angelo, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 7, 2002
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant has moved for summary judgment dismissing the claim of Maurice Lasane. According to his claim, Mr. Lasane fell from a scaffold on September 24, 1997 while working on a construction project; he asserted three causes of action under the Labor Law, namely, sections 200, 240 and 241. The accident occurred at the premises known as the New Harlem Courthouse, located on East 121st Street in Manhattan. This motion turns on whether the State had sufficient connection with the project to implicate the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.

The defendant submits an affidavit from Ronald Younkins, Director of Court Facilities and Executive Assistant to the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the State's Unified Court System. Mr. Younkins' duties include liaison with local governments, which are responsible for providing court facilities:[1]
After conducting a search and review of the files and records of the New York State Unified Court System, I have determined that the State of New York and the New York State Unified Court System does not and has never owned, constructed or reconstructed the Harlem Courthouse. Further, The State... and the...Unified Court System did not have any contracts in effect for any work on the Harlem Courthouse on or about September 24, 1997, nor did it supervise, direct or control any such work on or about said date. [Def Affirm, exh C, ¶3]
In his papers opposing defendant's motion, claimant presents an affirmation from his attorney, which does not put at issue the facts sworn to by Younkins. Rather it is more in the nature of a brief, discussing the standards for summary judgment and so forth. Paragraph 7 of claimant's Affirmation in Opposition argues, "the attorney's affirmations set forth by defendant is entirely self-serving and not supported by any facts." But, it is the Affirmation from Lasane's counsel that is bare of any facts. As Professor Siegel observes in his section entitled "Proof on Summary Judgment Motion," the "attorney's affidavit, unless the attorney happens to have first-hand knowledge of the facts - - which is the exception rather than the rule - - has no probative force." Siegel, New York Practice §281, p. 442 (3d ed).

Defendant's factual affidavit from a person familiar with the level, if any, of State involvement and responsibility for courthouses throughout New York State makes out a prima facie case which claimant leaves unchallenged. Such satisfies the requisites for the grant of summary judgment. See Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320, 508 NYS2d 923 (1986); Peacock v Kalikow, 239 AD2d 188, 658 NYS2d 7 (1st Dept 1997).

Accordingly, and having reviewed the parties' submitted papers[2], IT IS ORDERED that motion no. M-63575 be granted and claim no. 97544 be dismissed.

March 7, 2002
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Prior to April 1, 1998, "counties and cities, including New York City, [were] responsible for the provision of ‘suitable and sufficient' facilities for use by the State's major trial courts." 1996 McKinney's Session Laws p.2618 for ch 686; see § 5 of ch. 686 for the April 1, 1998 effective date of Judiciary Law §39-b. As of April 1, 1998, a portion of that responsibility - - the cleaning of the interior of the courthouses - - was transferred to the State (subd 2 of Judiciary Law §39-b).
[2] The papers read were as follows: 1) from claimant, an Affirmation in Opposition; and 2) from defendant, (i) a Notice of Motion with an Affirmation in Support containing exhibits A-C (the Claim, Verified Answer and Younkins affidavit, respectively), and (ii) an Affirmation in Reply.