New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HARRIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-542, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-65169


Synopsis


Claimant's motion for permission to file late claim alleging negligent supervision arising from attack by unknown inmate is denied.

Case Information

UID:
2002-019-542
Claimant(s):
DENNIS HARRIS
Claimant short name:
HARRIS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
NONE
Motion number(s):
M-65169
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
DENNIS HARRIS, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney Generalof counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 1, 2002
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant moves for permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act (hereinafter "CCA") 10 (6). The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes the motion.


The Court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
  1. Notice of Motion No. M-65169, undated and filed May 9, 2002.
  2. "Notice of Intention to file Claim", sworn to May 2, 2002.
  3. Proposed Claim, dated May 2, 2002.
  4. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in opposition to motion, dated May 31, 2002, and filed June 3, 2002.
The proposed claim alleges that Claimant was stabbed four times by unknown inmates while incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility") on December 18, 2001. No other details are provided in the moving papers regarding the history or known risks, if any, surrounding this Claimant and/or his assailants. The proposed claim is premised upon a negligence cause of action. According to the State, a Notice of Intention was served on the Attorney General's office on May 9, 2002 which is beyond the statutory time period to do so pursuant to CCA 10 and 11. Consequently, Claimant now moves for permission to file a late claim pursuant to CCA 10 (6).


As a threshold issue, the Court notes that it has jurisdiction to review and determine this motion since it was filed within three years from the date of accrual. (CPLR 214; CCA 10 [6]).


Turning to the substance of the motion, the factors the Court must consider in determining a properly framed CCA 10 (6) motion are whether:

1. the delay in filing the claim was excusable,

2. the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim,
3. the State had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim,

4. the claim appears to be meritorious,
5. the failure to file or serve upon the attorney general a timely claim or to serve upon the attorney general a notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State, and

6. there is any other available remedy.


Initially, the Court notes that Claimant has not submitted a separate affidavit addressing the statutory factors set forth in CCA 10 (6), rather only a "Notice of Intention" and a proposed claim. As such, the Court will glean as much information as possible from these papers in addressing the statutory factors.


The Court will first examine the factor that has been characterized as the most decisive component in determining a motion under CCA 10 (6), namely whether the proposed claim appears meritorious, since it would be futile to permit a meritless claim to proceed. (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1). In order to establish a meritorious claim, Claimant must establish that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective and that there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid claim exists. (Id. at 11). In order to make this determination the Court may examine the proposed causes of action, as well as all submitted papers and exhibits. (Id.). Although a late filing applicant need not overcome all legal objections relative to the merit of the proposed claim, an applicant must establish the probable existence of evidence necessary to support the fundamental elements of the proposed claim. (Id. at 11-12).

Claimant's proposed claim is described as a negligence action against the State. Although not specifically stated the Court will construe this allegation to include the State's failure to provide proper security, supervision and protection for him as an inmate in a State correctional facility. It is well-settled, however, that the fact that an assault has occurred in a State correctional facility does not give rise to an inference of negligence in and of itself. (Schittino v State of New York, 262 AD2d 824, lv denied 94 NY2d 752). Generally, liability in a claim asserting negligence on the part of the State when one inmate assaults another inmate must be predicated upon one of the following grounds: (1) the victim was a known risk and the State failed to provide protection; (2) the State had notice that the assailant was particularly prone to perpetrating such an assault and failed to take precautionary measures; or (3) the State had ample notice and ample opportunity to intervene but failed to act. (Sebastiano v State of New York, 112 AD2d 562; Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833; Huertas v State of New York, 84 AD2d 650).


Here, Claimant does not even attempt to argue any one of these grounds. Claimant has not alleged any facts or circumstances which would indicate that the State was aware of any specific, as opposed to a general, threat of harm to him to satisfy the first ground. Claimant states the identities of his attackers are unknown, so he will obviously be unable to establish the second ground. Nor is there an allegation that the attack on Claimant was foreseeable, thereby negating any reliance on the third ground. Accordingly, the proposed claim is without an appearance of merit. (Bailey v State of New York, Ct Cl, July 13, 2000, McNamara, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-61591). Consequently, although there is no doubt that an assault took place as alleged by Claimant, the Court finds that Claimant has failed to establish that there is reasonable cause to believe a cause of action based upon negligent supervision exists. This factor weighs against Claimant.



As to the remaining factors, Claimant offers no explanation for the delay in filing the claim. As such, the Court finds this factor weighs against Claimant.


The next three factors of notice, opportunity and prejudice comprise the next three factors and may be considered together since they involve analogous considerations. In this assault, the State does not genuinely dispute that Claimant suffered stab wounds to his head, hand and arm. As such, it is fair to presume that Claimant received immediate medical attention which would have presumably been, at least initially, rendered at the Facility and instigated an investigation. Accordingly, in this Court's view, the State, at a minimum, had notice of the assault immediately after its occurrence. Upon being placed on notice that an assault had allegedly occurred, the State certainly had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. Additionally, this application was filed only approximately two months after the time to serve and file his claim had expired. Based upon all of these circumstances, therefore, it does not appear that there would be any undue prejudice to the State in allowing this claim to be filed at this time. The Court finds these three factors weigh in Claimant's favor.


With respect to the final factor, since Claimant's assailant was not identified, he does not have an alternate remedy available to him. (Williams v State of New York, Ct Cl, February 19, 2002, Minarik, J., Claim No. None, Motion No. M-64161). Thus, this factor weighs in Claimant's favor.

Accordingly, upon reviewing and balancing all of the factors enumerated in CCA 10 (6), the Court finds that two of the six statutory factors, including the all-important issue of merit, weigh against Claimant, thereby warranting denial of his motion for permission to late file.


In view of the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that Claimant's motion for permission to file a late claim, Motion No. M-65169, is DENIED.

July 1, 2002
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims