New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RIVERA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-579, Claim No. 105785, Motion No. M-65806


Claimant's motion for leave to renew relative to dismissal of portion of claim on jurisdictional grounds is denied.

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:
October 18, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, files this motion entitled as a "Notice of Motion for Leave to Re-New" pursuant to CPLR 2221 seeking leave to renew the sua sponte dismissal of a portion of Claim No. 105785 relating to a June 30, 2001 incident. The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes the motion.

The Court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
  1. DECISION AND ORDER, Lebous, J., Claim No. 105785, Motion Nos. M-65234 & M-65320, August 2, 2002.
  2. Notice of Motion No. M-65806, dated September 13, 2002, and filed September 19, 2002.
  3. Affidavit of Jose Rivera, in support of motion, sworn to September 13, 2002, with attached exhibits.
  4. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in opposition to motion, dated September 25, 2002, and filed September 27, 2002, with attached exhibit.
In a prior Decision & Order, this Court previously dismissed, sua sponte, a portion of Claim No. 105785 premised upon an incident that occurred on June 30, 2001 due to jurisdictional defects. (Rivera v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 2, 2002, Lebous, J., Claim No. 105785, Motion Nos. M-65234 & M-65320). A motion for leave to renew is based upon new or additional proof not previously presented and must "[c]ontain reasonable justification for the failure to present such facts on the prior motion". (CPLR 2221[e][3]; Delvecchio v Bayside Chrysler Plymouth Jeep Eagle, 271 AD2d 636 [renewal motion properly denied where no reasonable excuse was proffered). Inasmuch as this Court previously addressed this matter sua sponte the Court will address the merits of Claimant's motion.

By way of this motion, Claimant concedes that his Notice of Intention was untimely with respect to the June 30, 2001 incident, but now attempts to assert that he is entitled to invoke the doctrine of estoppel against the State due to prison officials' delay in processing his legal mail. The State opposes the motion on both procedural and substantive grounds. First, the State argues that this motion is untimely because it was brought beyond the 30-day period from service of notice of entry of said Decision & Order. However, "[n]o such time limit inhibits the motion to renew" as it does a motion to reargue. (Siegel, NY Prac § 254, at 414 [3d ed]). As such, Claimant's motion is timely. That having been said, however, the Court finds merit in the State's remaining argument relative to Claimant's purported reason for failing to comply with CCA 10 and 11.

By way of background, the incident is alleged to have accrued on June 30, 2001, thereby requiring that the Notice of Intention be served within 90 days thereafter which would have been September 28, 2001. Claimant missed this deadline by serving his Notice of Intention 14 days later on October 12, 2001. Claimant now avers that he submitted a disbursement request on an "Authorized Advance Request" form to request payment of the necessary postage for this legal mail on September 17, 2001. The next day he received notification that he needed special permission since his request would put him over his legal $20 limit. On that same day, September 18, 2001, Claimant submitted a second request explaining the urgency of his request. Nevertheless, on September 21, 2001, Facility officials issued a second rejection stating that Claimant had just served a Notice of Intention on August 14, 2001 and that he would have to prove that this Notice of Intention related to a different claim. Claimant submitted a letter refusing to submit the two Notices of Intention to Facility officials arguing that "[t]hey are confidential and I will not voluntarily show it to anyone but the direct parties...", but rather providing a synopsis of the dates of accrual for the different claims. (Claimant's Exhibit C, page 1; emphasis in original). Ultimately, Claimant's request was approved on September 26, 2001, but service was not achieved until after the aforementioned deadline. Claimant submitted copies of all his request forms and responses which appear to confirm this sequence of events.

It is well-settled that defects in mailing by an inmate can result, upon proper proof, in an estoppel if the State is the cause of the delay. (Wattley v State of New York, 146 Misc 2d 968).

In this Court's view, however, Claimant has failed to set forth sufficient proof warranting the application of estoppel in this instance. The procedures for the handling of outgoing legal mail when an inmate does not have a sufficient balance remaining for his weekly free postage are outlined in DOCS rules and regulations. (7 NYCRR 721 [a] [3] [iv] and (vi]). There is nothing in Claimant's papers that allege that Facility personnel did not follow these procedures. Moreover, Claimant has failed to explain his own initial delay in instigating this process, namely the time between the date of this incident, June 30, 2001, until his first request nearly 10 weeks later on September 17, 2001. This sequence of events is a good demonstration of the wisdom behind the adage "Leave Time for Trouble". (Siegel, NY Prac § 33, at 40 [3d ed]). It was incumbent on Claimant to allow enough time for trouble in the processing of his request knowing the intricacies of the prison mail system and likely aware of his low account balance. The State cannot be held accountable for following its own rules and regulations in processing an inmate's legal mail and to rule otherwise would impose an unreasonable burden on prison officials to constantly monitor the urgency of requests in relation to legal time periods. Consequently, the Court finds that Claimant has failed to submit sufficient proof warranting the application of estoppel against the State in this instance.

Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that Claimant's motion for renewal, Motion No. M-65806, is GRANTED and, upon such renewal, Claimant's motion to have the portion of Claim No. 105785 previously dismissed reinstated is DENIED.

October 18, 2002
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims