New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SEGUIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-015-328, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-66558


Upon consideration of the statutory factors movant permitted to file late claim to recover for personal injuries sustained when claimant's motor vehicle was struck by State Police vehicle which turned left into claimant at intersection.

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:
Snyder, Kiley, Toohey, Corbett & Cox, LLP
By: James G. Snyder, Esquire
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Dennis M. Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 10, 2003
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Movant's application for late claim relief pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10 (6) is granted. The proposed claim (Exhibit C) seeks to recover for serious personal injuries as defined in Insurance Law § 5102 (d) sustained by Danielle Seguin on March 23, 2001 at the intersection of Fire Road and State Route 9 in the Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga County, New York . Movant alleges that she was driving a vehicle owned by her father across the intersection when it was struck by a New York State Police vehicle which turned left into movant's vehicle resulting in property damage and serious personal injury to the movant. The owner of movant's vehicle was compensated for his loss by the State's automobile insurance carrier. Movant seeks recovery for her injury including pain and suffering and economic loss in excess of basic economic loss as defined in Insurance Law § 5102 (a). Specifically, Schedule A attached to the proposed claim seeks $250,000 for personal injury and $250,000 for medical expenses and lost wages. Movant's application for late claim relief was filed with the Court Clerk on March 19, 2003. Defendant opposed the motion.

Subdivision 6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act permits this Court, if the applicable Statute of Limitations set forth in article 2 of the CPLR has not expired, to allow the filing of a late claim upon consideration of the following factors: "whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable; whether the state had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; whether the state had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; whether the claim appears to be meritorious; whether 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, whether the claimant has any other available remedy".

The motion filed on March 19, 2003 is timely in that a personal injury claim arising from the alleged negligence of a state trooper in the operation of a State owned vehicle while engaged in the performance of his or her duties is governed by the three year Statute of Limitations set forth in CPLR § 214 (5).

Turning to the statutory factors, this Court has broad discretion in deciding a motion to permit the late filing of a claim (Ledet v State of New York, 207 AD2d 965), and the statutory factors are not exhaustive or one factor controlling (Matter of Gavigan v State of New York, 176 AD2d 1117). The most important factor is whether the potential claim has merit, as it would be a futile exercise to permit litigation of a clearly baseless lawsuit (Savino v State of New York, 199 AD2d 254).

Movant ascribes the delay in serving and filing the claim to her belief that she had three years to commence a negligence action based upon her involvement in previous litigation. It is settled that ignorance of the law is not a reasonable excuse for untimely filing (Galvin, Matter of v State of New York, 176 AD2d 1185; lv denied 79 NY2d 753; Innis v State of New York, 92 AD2d 606, affd 60 NY2d 654); Erca v State of New York, 51 AD2d 611, affd 42 NY2d 854). No other excuse has been offered and this factor weighs against granting the motion.

The intertwined issues of notice, opportunity to investigate and prejudice will be considered together. Movant alleges the subject motor vehicle accident was reported promptly after its occurrence and that the State's insurance risk management service determined the trooper was 100% at fault in causing the accident as evidenced by correspondence issued when the carrier settled the owner's property damage claim (see, Exhibit A). Moreover, the letter notifying the vehicle's owner of the carrier's decision stated that the settlement figure for the property damage claim was "contingent on approval from the State Attorney General's Office" (Exhibit A).

These unrefuted allegations demonstrate that the State received timely notification of the essential facts surrounding the subject accident and was afforded an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the incident. As a result, it does not appear that the State has been prejudiced by the movant's delay in filing and serving the claim and the factors of notice, opportunity to investigate and lack of prejudice favor granting the motion (Lockwood v State of New York, 267 AD2d 832, 833).

As to the issue of merit, the proposed claim appears to present a potentially viable cause of action for negligently caused personal injuries. In order to establish a meritorious claim it is movant's burden to show that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective and there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid claim exists (see, Rosenhack v State of New York, 112 Misc 2d 967; Santana, Matter of, v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1). In the Court's view movant has met that burden.

As to the final factor, it does not appear that movant has any other legal remedy available under the circumstances and this factor weighs in favor of granting the application.

Movant is directed to file a verified claim including a statement of "the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and the total sum claimed" (Court of Claims Act § 11 [b]). The claim shall be filed with the Chief Clerk of the Court and a copy thereof served upon the Attorney General either personally or by certified mail, return receipt requested, as provided in Court of Claims Act § 11 (a) (i) within 30 days of service upon movant's counsel of a copy of this decision and order.

June 10, 2003
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated March 18, 2003;
  2. Affidavit of Danielle Seguin sworn to March 17, 2003 with exhibits;
  3. Affidavit of James G. Snyder sworn to March 18, 2003 with exhibits;
  4. Affidavit of Dennis M. Acton sworn to March 28, 2003.