New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

QUIGLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-015-344, Claim No. 107749, Motion No. M-66868


Court dismissed claim seeking damages for personal injuries sustained at State owned/operated ski resort. Since claim lacked specificity of the mechanism of claimant's accident.

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:
Calano & Calano, LLPBy: Edward A. Frey, Esquire
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Paul F. Cagino, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 15, 2003
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim for failure to state a cause of action is granted, it is further dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The claim filed May 15, 2003 seeks to recover $1,000,000.00 in damages for personal injury sustained as a result of Margaret Ripley Quigley's fall at Belleayre Mountain on January 25, 2003.[1] The claim neither specifies the State owned or operated instrumentality which negligently caused claimant's fall nor describes the manner in which she fell.

After service of the claim upon the Attorney General's office but prior to its filing, the defendant moved to dismiss the claim alleging, inter alia, that the claim lacks the specificity required to state a cause of action including factual averments describing the manner in which the accident occurred and what negligent act or omission on the part of the defendant caused claimant's injuries.

Claimants' attorney opposed the motion by affirmation in which he generally denied the defendant's allegations regarding the claim's lack of specificity and argued the motion was rendered moot by service of an amended claim. A copy of the amended claim verified April 17, 2003 was attached to the motion papers as Exhibit B.

Interestingly, court records demonstrate that the pleadings and motion papers in this case were filed in the following rather unusual sequence: on February 18, 2003 claimant served a notice of intention and claim upon the Attorney General; defendant's verified answer to the claim and discovery demands were filed on March 27, 2003; defendant's motion to dismiss the claim was then filed on March 31, 2003; the Court Clerk subsequently accepted an "Amended Claim" for filing without payment of the required fee (Court of Claims Act § 11-a) on April 25, 2003; and the original claim accompanied by the filing fee was filed on May 15, 2003.

The above facts give rise to the unusual circumstance where a motion to dismiss the claim was served and filed prior to the filing of the claim to which the motion was addressed. This peculiarity was further compounded by the fact that subsequent to the motion but prior to the claim's actual filing the claimant served and filed an amended claim.[2]

It is well established that on a motion pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a)(7) the Court's role is to examine the pleading to determine whether a cause of action exists rather than whether a cause of action has been stated (Quail Ridge Assocs. v Chemical Bank , 162 AD2d 917, 918; lv dismissed 76 NY2d 936). In doing so the Court should construe the pleading liberally, accept the facts alleged as true (Carp v Marcus, 112 AD2d 546) and accord the claimant the benefit of all favorable inferences which may be drawn from the pleading (see, Campaign for Fiscal Equity v State of New York, 86 NY2d 307, 318).

As the Court of Appeals in Guggenheimer v Ginzburg, 43 NY2d 268, 275 observed "the sole criterion is whether the pleading states a cause of action, and if from its four corners factual allegations are discerned which taken together manifest any cause of action cognizable at law a motion for dismissal will fail (see Foley v D'Agostino, 21 AD2d 60, 64-65; Siegel, Practice Commentaries, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 7B, CPLR 3211:24, p 31; 4 Weinstein-Korn-Miller, NY Civ Prac, par 3211.36)."

At first blush the claim and/or amended claim might appear to satisfy the liberal standard applied to a 3211 (a) (7) motion. However, in reviewing the contents of the claim to determine whether a cause of action was stated it was also appropriate to examine the claimant's allegations of negligence to determine whether the jurisdictional requirements of the Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) have been met. The Appellate Courts of this State have determined that the pleading requirements of section 11 of the Court of Claims Act are jurisdictional in nature and must be strictly construed (see Finnerty v New York State Thruway Auth., 75 NY2d 721; Lepkowski v State of New York, 302 AD2d 765). Moreover, it is settled that the Court may address the issue of the Court's subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte (Fry, Matter of v Vil. of Tarrytown, 89 NY2d 714; Finnerty v New York State Thruway Auth., supra; Hernandez v State of New York, 144 AD2d 167; Grande v State of New York, 160 Misc 2d 383).

Section 11 (b) of the Court of Claims Act in relevant part provides: "The claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, and the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and the total sum claimed." The specificity required of a claim pursuant to section 11 (b) was recently addressed by the Appellate Division, Second Department in Wharton v City Univ. of New York, 287 AD2d 559, 560 where the Court held:
Pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11 (b), a claim must set forth the nature of the claim and the time and place where it arose. Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) does not require 'absolute exactness'; it requires a statement made with 'sufficient definiteness to enable the State to be able to investigate the claim promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances. The statement must be specific enough so as not to mislead, deceive or prejudice the rights of the State. In short, substantial compliance with section 11 is what is required' (Grumet v State of New York, 256 AD2d 441, 442 [internal quotation marks omitted]; Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d 767; see, Cobin v State of New York, 234 AD2d 498). However, 'conclusory or general allegations of negligence that fail to [state] the manner in which the claimant was injured and how the State was negligent do not meet its requirements' (Grumet v State of New York, supra, at 442; Heisler v State of New York, supra, at 767-768).

Even viewed liberally it is immediately apparent that the instant claim fails to state any viable cause of action against the State of New York since it fails to allege how the named claimant was injured or in what manner the acts or omissions of State officers, employees or agents caused or contributed to her injuries. The claim's lack of specificity creates a jurisdictional defect which was not susceptible to cure by the filing of an amended claim (see, Manshul Constr. Corp. v State Ins. Fund, 118 AD2d 983).

Accordingly, the defendant's motion must be granted and the claim(s) dismissed for the reasons set forth above.

August 15, 2003
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated March 26, 2003;
  2. Affirmation of Paul F. Cagino dated March 26, 2003;
  3. Affirmation of Edward A. Frey undated with exhibits.

[1]The claim also seeks damages for loss of consortium in the amount of $250,000.00 apparently in the name of co-claimant Richard Quigley though such claim is not separately stated as such in the claim. References to claimant in the singular are deemed to refer to Margaret Ripley Quigley.
[2]The April 25, 2003 acceptance for filing of the amended claim by the Chief Clerk without payment of the filing fee required for filing a claim by Court of Claims Act § 11-a and in advance of the filing of a claim which it sought to amend was in error.