New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SMITH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-028-569, Claim No. 101137-A, Motion No. M-66521


Synopsis


Case Information

UID:
2003-028-569
Claimant(s):
JOHN SMITH
Claimant short name:
SMITH
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
101137-A
Motion number(s):
M-66521
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RICHARD E. SISE
Claimant's attorney:
THE LAW OFFICES OF HOWARD A. BALSAMBY: Howard A. Balsam, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Joel L. Marmelstein, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 22, 2003
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers were read on Defendant's motion to dismiss the Claim:

1) Notice of Motion and Affirmation in Support of Assistant Attorney General Joel L. Marmelstein (Marmelstein Affirmation) filed March 10, 2003 with annexed Exhibits A-B;

2) Affirmation in Opposition of Howard A. Balsam (Balsam Affirmation) filed

May 6, 2003.


Filed Papers: Claim, filed September 27, 1999; Amended Claim filed January 21, 2003;

Decision and Order; Smith v State of New York, Ct Cl, Fitzpatrick, J.,

December 17, 2002 (unpublished).



Defendant has timely moved by pre-answer motion to dismiss the instant Claim premised upon Claimant's failure to timely serve an Amended Claim, as directed by the Hon. Diane L. Fitzpatrick, in a decision and order which granted Claimant's application to treat his timely served Notice of Intention as a Claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10(8) (see Decision and Order; Smith v State of New York, Ct Cl, Fitzpatrick, J., December 17, 2002 [unpublished]).

Defendant asserts that the time constraints set forth in Judge Fitzpatrick's decision and order must be construed strictly, akin to the requirements set forth in Court of Claims Act §§ 10 and 11 (Marmelstein Affirmation, ¶¶ 7 and 8). Claimant opposes the motion, acknowledging that the Amended Claim was untimely served (Balsam Affirmation ¶ 4) and begs the Court, without benefit of a cross-motion, to grant "retroactive permission for an extension of time" (id. ¶ 5). Claimant's counsel offers as an explanation for the delay that he could not locate Claimant as Claimant failed to inform counsel of a new telephone number (id. ¶ 8).

Mindful that the Court has already "breathed life into the Claim" (see Marmelstein Affirmation, ¶ 8 ), the Court can not overlook the fact that a Claim initiating this action, albeit originally a Notice of Intention, has been filed. The issue before the Court is compliance with the time periods set forth in the prior Order and not compliance with the Court of Claims Act itself; the Court having determined that Claimant was entitled to relief pursuant to the Act. As such, the Court does not accept Defendant's argument that strict application of the Court of Claims Act is required in a situation, where as here, the Court has, inter alia, directed the service of an Amended Claim. Clearly, there were better courses of action available to Claimant than leaving the matter to chance, such as an application pursuant to CPLR 2004.

Notably, CPLR 2004 authorizes the Court to extend the time fixed by an order for doing any act "upon such terms as may be just and upon good cause shown." The Court of Appeals has held that good cause under CPLR 2004 includes law office failure[1] (see Tewari v Tsoutsouras, 75 NY2d 1, 12). This Court, favoring resolution of claims on the merits (Frank v Martuge, 285 AD2d 938), faced with a short period of default[2] (see Sabatello v Frescatore, 200 AD2d 939) and no prejudice to the Defendant, sua sponte, extends Claimant's time to once again serve and file the Amended Claim pursuant to CPLR 2004.

The Court, in exercising its discretion sua sponte, must also address the failure of the Claimant to comply with an Order of the Court and the resulting motion made by the Attorney General on behalf of his client. In granting this extension, the Court will do so "upon such terms as may be just" (CPLR 2004). Such terms commonly include a monetary condition (see LaPlant v State of New York, Ct Cl, Bell, J., Claim No. None, Motion No. M-64682, UID#2002-007-153 [March 8, 2002]) and the Court finds that such a condition is warranted, where, as here, the Attorney General acted to protect his client's rights when Claimant failed to comply with the existing Order.

Accordingly, and consistent with the foregoing it is hereby

ORDERED, that Defendant's motion is conditionally denied; and it is further

ORDERED, that Claimant's attorney shall deposit with the Clerk of the Court a check in the amount of $250.00 payable to the New York State Department of Law no later than October 4, 2003, said check to be transmitted to the Attorney General by the Clerk of the Court, and it is further

ORDERED, that upon the deposit of said check with the Clerk of the Court, Claimant shall serve and file the Amended Claim previously filed with the Clerk of the Court, no later than October 15, 2003; and it is further

ORDERED, that upon the failure to deposit the said check as set forth above, the Defendant's motion shall be granted and the Claim dismissed.


September 22, 2003
Albany, New York

HON. RICHARD E. SISE
Judge of the Court of Claims





[1] The Court notes that there is not an affidavit from the Claimant or his wife as to the facts (see Balsam Affirmation, ¶ 8) nor is there any indication that Claimant was not reachable by mail.
[2] Defendant calculates the last day of service as January 16, 2003 with the Amended Claim being served upon Defendant on February 7, 2003 (Marmelstein Affirmation, ¶ 5).