New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MADURA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-015-355, Claim No. 107841, Motion No. M-67057


Court of claims lacks equity jurisdiction to overturn decision of New York State Department of Agriculture and markets finding claimant ineligible to participate in program distributing federal dollars for onion growers in claimant's county of residence pursuant to Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

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:
Norton & ChristensenBy: Harold M. Pressberg, Esquire
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Belinda A. Wagner, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 30, 2003
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant's pre-answer motion to dismiss the claim for lack of jurisdiction is granted. The claim alleges a cause of action for breach of implied contract founded upon the denial of claimant's application for reimbursement of certain losses incurred in her capacity as an onion farmer pursuant to the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 which provides, in part, as follows:

The Secretary of Agriculture shall use $10,000,000 of the funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation to make a grant to the State of New York to be used to support onion producers in Orange County, New York, that have suffered losses to onion crops during 1 or more of the 1996 through 2000 crop years.
Claimant alleges that she sustained "total eligible losses" of $660,108.80 in crop years 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. The claim relates that the claimant applied for reimbursement of her eligible losses in September 2002 and that the Department of Agriculture & Markets denied claimant's application for program participation "without any right under the applicable law or otherwise." Paragraph 3 of the claim alleges that the claim accrued on January 9, 2003 "when the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets denied Claimant's application for market loss reimbursement pursuant to the 2002 Federal Farm Bill/Orange County Onion Producer Support Program." On the motion the defendant asserts that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim challenging an agency determination which is properly brought in Supreme Court pursuant to CPLR article 78.

Alternatively, the defendant argues that the claim was untimely commenced. Despite claimant's characterization of the claim as one seeking damages for breach of an implied contract defense counsel argues that under the facts alleged in the claim claimant was not a party to any contract, actual or implied. Accordingly she avers the six month period provided in Court of Claims Act § 10 (4) for commencement of an action sounding in contract or for actions "not otherwise provided for" has no application and that the 90 day commencement period found in Court of Claims Act § 10(3) applies. Under such a limitation a claim accruing on January 9, 2003 would have had to have been commenced by April 9, 2003. The instant claim filed and served on June 9, 2003 is alleged therefore to be untimely.

Claimant's sole opposition to the motion is a memorandum of law signed by claimant's attorney. As noted above claimant alleges that the denial of her application to participate in the federal grant program for New York State onion producers constitutes a breach of a contract implied in law.

Court of Claims Act § 9 (2) grants this Court jurisdiction to hear and determine claims for "breach of contract, express or implied." An action for money had and received is within the Court's jurisdiction "because it states a legal cause of action for money damages founded upon an implied in law contract" (Parsa v State of New York, 64 NY2d 143, 149). Notwithstanding the above, the Court's subject matter jurisdiction is limited to instances where the essential nature of the claim is to recover money damages (Gross, Matter of, v Perales, 72 NY2d 231). It has been held that the Court of Claims has "no jurisdiction to grant strictly equitable relief . . . with the return of the money to follow as a consequence of the equitable relief, if granted" (Psaty v Duryea, 306 NY 413, 416-417). Where a party "seeks to annul an agency's determination because it was arbitrary and capricious, then a CPLR article 78 proceeding is appropriate" (Safety Group No. 194 - New York State Sheet Metal Roofing & A.C. Contrs. Assn. v State of New York, 298 AD2d 785, 786).

In this case it seems clear that the claim seeks primarily equitable relief in the form of a challenge to the Department of Agriculture and Markets' denial of her application for reimbursement of eligible losses under the federal Market Loss Assistance Program. Any award of money damages would require a finding that the agency wrongfully denied claimant's application for assistance, "a determination claimant should have challenged by commencement of a CPLR article 78 proceeding" in Supreme Court (Harvard Fin. Servs. v State of New York, 266 AD2d 685). The defendant's motion to dismiss the claim for lack of jurisdiction is granted and the claim is hereby dismissed.

September 30, 2003
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated July 2, 2003;
  2. Affirmation of Belinda A. Wagner dated July 2, 2003 with exhibits;
  3. Memorandum of law of Harold M. Pressberg dated July 16, 2003;
  4. Affirmation of Belinda A. Wagner dated July 30, 2003 with exhibits.