New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-557, Claim No. 104447, Motion No. M-65415


Claimant's motion to amend claim is granted.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General,of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 5, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, a pro se inmate, moves to amend his claim pursuant to CPLR 3025 (b). The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes the motion.

The Court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
1. Claim, filed June 20, 2001.
2. Notice of Motion No. M-65415, dated June 24, 2002, and filed June 27, 2002.
3. Affidavit of Johnathan Johnson, in support of motion, sworn to June 24, 2002.
4. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in opposition to motion, dated July 22, 2002, and filed July 24, 2002, with attached exhibits.

The underlying claim relates to allegations of harassment of Claimant by Correction Officer Kapnolas at Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility"). More specifically, Claimant alleges that Correction Officer Kapnolas improperly searched his cell, verbally harassed him, and stole a new pair of headphones from him between April 2001 through June 2001. This Claim was filed with the Clerk of the Court on June 20, 2001 and served on the Attorney General's office by certified mail, return receipt requested, on June 22, 2001.

By way of this motion, Claimant seeks to amend his Claim to include additional allegations of harassment by Officer Kapnolas relating to telephone access occurring in June of 2001.[1]

Pleadings in the Court of Claims may be amended in the manner provided by CPLR 3025. (Uniform Rules for the Court of Claims [22 NYCRR] § 206.7 [b]). CPLR 3025 (b) states that such "leave shall be freely given" and it is well-settled that such motions are directed to the sound discretion of the Court. (Murray v City of New York, 43 NY2d 400, 404-405, rearg denied 45 NY2d 966). Factors to be considered in determining whether to allow amendment of a pleading are the resulting prejudice, if any, to the opposing party; the effect, if any, the proposed amendment would have on the orderly prosecution of the action; whether the moving party unduly delayed in seeking to add the amendment; and whether the proposed amendment is palpably improper or insufficient as a matter of law. (Excelsior Ins. Co. v Antretter Contr. Corp., 262 AD2d 124; Gonfiantini v Zino, 184 AD2d 368; Harding v Filancia, 144 AD2d 538). The State argues that each of these factors warrant denial of Claimant's motion.

On the issue of prejudice, the State argues that Claimant's proposed amendment is so vague as to impede the State's investigation into the incident. To the contrary, however, the Court finds that the proposed amendment provided sufficient detail to enable Officer Kapnolas to submit an affidavit in opposition denying the allegations. Officer Kapnolas does not indicate any difficulty in recalling the June 2001 telephone access incident and, quite the opposite, adamantly denies any wrongdoing in connection therewith. The Court finds the State has failed to establish any resulting prejudice if the proposed amendment were allowed to proceed.

Next, the State argues that the orderly prosecution of this matter would be adversely impacted because the proposed amendment adds nothing new to this Claim. However, in this Court's view, this matter is not scheduled for trial and although some additional discovery may be required there is more than ample time to conduct the same. This Court finds that the orderly prosecution of this matter would not be altered in any substantive manner.

With respect to Claimant's delay in requesting this relief, although a year has transpired since the Claim was filed and served, Claimant filed this instant motion shortly after this Court's Decision & Order which addressed, in part, discovery surrounding the June 2001 incident. (Johnson v State of New York, Ct Cl, June 19, 2002, Lebous, J., Claim No. 104447, Motion Nos. M-64883 & CM-65276). In fact, a review of Claimant's prior discovery demands (which included demands relative to the June 2001 telephone incident) tends to support the conclusion that Claimant believed he had included that incident in his original claim and only realized the omission upon the State's refusal to produce discovery relating to an unpled incident. As such, Claimant's delay in seeking this relief does not warrant denial of the motion in and of itself.

Finally, the State argues that the proposed amended claim is palpably improper or insufficient as a matter of law and relies on Officer Kapnolas' affidavit denying these additional allegations to support its conclusion. However, at this juncture, Officer Kapnolas' denial of events is insufficient to support a conclusion that the proposed amendment is palpably improper or insufficient as a matter of law. Rather, Officer Kapnolas' denials merely illustrate that these parties have sharply divergent views of the course of events which may well end up as a credibility determination by this Court which are matters best left for trial.

Consequently, for the reasons stated above, it is ORDERED that Claimant's motion to amend Claim No. 104447, Motion No. M-65415, is GRANTED on the condition that, within 60 days of the date of filing of this Decision and Order, he serve his Amended Claim upon the Attorney General by regular mail (CPLR 2103 [b]) and file the Amended Claim, with an affidavit of service attached, with the Clerk of the Court.

August 5, 2002
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Claimant did not submit a proposed Amended Claim with his motion papers. Although submission of the proposed pleading as an exhibit is preferable, such is not a statutory requirement and may be overlooked especially when, as here, the party opposing the application has failed to raise the issue or to allege any resulting prejudice. (Knight v State of New York, 177 Misc 2d 181; see also, Rodriguez v. State of New York, 153 Misc 2d 363).