New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HUNTLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-537, Claim No. 106466, Motion Nos. M-66446, CM-66559


Synopsis


Claimant's motion for sanctions pursuant to §3126 CPLR denied. Defendant's cross-motion for protective order denied.

Case Information

UID:
2003-030-537
Claimant(s):
JASON HUNTLEY
Claimant short name:
HUNTLEY
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
106466
Motion number(s):
M-66446
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-66559
Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
JASON HUNTLEY, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERALBY: ELYSE ANGELICO, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 1, 2003
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers numbered 1 to 7 were read on Claimant's Motion for sanctions, and


Defendant's Cross-Motion for a protective order:

1,2 Notice of Motion; Affidavit in Support by Jason Huntley, Claimant, sworn to on February 19, 2003 and accompanying exhibits

3,4 Notice of Cross-Motion, Affirmation in Support of Cross-Motion by Elyse J. Angelico, Assistant Attorney General, dated March 12, 2003, and accompanying exhibits

  1. Reply to Defendant's Opposition by Jason Huntley, Claimant, sworn to on March 26, 2003
6,7 Filed papers: Claim, Answer

After carefully reviewing the papers submitted and the applicable law the motions are disposed of as follows:

In his Claim, Claimant alleges that Defendant's agents either negligently or intentionally lost his personal property while it was in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter DOCS). After a fire in his cell, Claimant was moved from one correctional facility to another. He packed up nine (9) bags of property, but received only three (3) bags at his destination. Officials advised him that the property he had packed had been re-packed into three (3) larger bags, and that no property was lost. His administrative remedies were exhausted by denial of his appeal on or about June 19, 2002.

Claimant served Interrogatories upon Defendant on or about November 4, 2002. [See, Claimant's Affidavit in Support, Exhibit "B"]. Defendant responded to same on or about December 27, 2002. [Ibid, Exhibit "A"]. See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §§3130, 3131, 3132, 3133.

Additionally, Claimant served at least two Notice(s) to Admit the Genuineness of Paper or Document upon Defendant on September 23, 2002 and October 15, 2002. [See, Claimant's Affidavit in Support, Exhibits "E" and "G"]. Defendant responded to same. [Ibid, Exhibits "F" and "H"].

Claimant now seeks sanctions pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules §3126 for the purportedly evasive or "unethical" responses of the Assistant Attorney General.

The Court has reviewed the Interrogatories served and the responses and finds the responses adequate based upon the inquiries made. As the relevant statute provides: "Interrogatories may relate to any matters embraced in the disclosure requirement of section 3101...." See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §§3101, 3131. As noted by Defendant, the "...party responding to an interrogatory is not required to anticipate what information the proponent of the interrogatory is seeking but need only answer the actual question posed...." Meraner v Albany Medical Center, 211 AD2d 867, 868 (3d Dept 1995), lv to appeal dismd, 85 NY2d 968 (1995). Valid objections to interrogatories include that they are irrelevant, immaterial and unnecessary; overbroad, vague, ambiguous, or unduly burdensome; or duplicative of other materials or responses already provided.

In this case, the Court cannot help but note that some of these questions ask for an opinion as to whether officials involved in reviewing Claimant's facility claim acted in accordance with certain regulations, or requests information not in Defendant's control. Where the questions are specific, however, they have been answered.

With respect to the two Notices to Admit, served upon Defendant on or about September 23, 2002 and October 15, 2002 respectively, the Court also finds that they have been responded to adequately, and, in any event, a motion for sanctions relative to requests to admit is not the kind of penalty that applies. See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §3123(c). The purpose of this discovery device is to eliminate from litigation factual matters that will not be in dispute at trial, that are within the knowledge of the party from whom the information is sought or readily ascertainable by that party. See, generally, Vasquez v Vengroff, 295 AD2d 421 (2d Dept 2002); Taylor v Blair, 116 AD2d 204 (1st Dept 1986). Requests to admit should not be addressed to ultimate issues in the case in controversy, and should not seek legal conclusions, such as, for example that an entry onto property was trespass [See, e.g., Gomez v Long Island Railroad, 201 AD2d 455, 456 (2d Dept 1994)], or a party's interpretation of the law. Villa v New York City Housing Authority, 107 AD2d 619, 620 (1st Dept 1985). Assuming the requests are proper, then, the party to whom they are addressed must deny them, or explain why they cannot respond in a sworn statement, or else the matters are deemed admitted.

In terms of any sanction associated with an alleged failure to respond adequately to a Notice to Admit, the Rules provide that upon a failure to admit the requested information, and subsequent proof of the fact in issue, the party seeking the admission may move for an order requiring payment of any expenses associated with establishing the fact in issue. See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §3123(c). There is no provision that a party move to have a matter deemed admitted, for example, or that the disclosure sanctions of Civil Practice Law and Rules §3126 apply.

With respect to the documents that may be in the custody of DOCS, the Assistant Attorney General correctly notes that while she can admit that the documents may be in DOCS' custody, she cannot admit to the accuracy of the representations contained therein as these are matters that may be "substantially in dispute." Additionally, some of the documents are Claimant's own letters, and putative responses thereto: all matters best reserved to the trial of the matter. In any event, there has been no unreasonable failure to respond to Claimant's discovery requests. Indeed, Defendant has furnished all items appropriately requested, or stated valid objections, thus there is no basis to impose sanctions.

Defendant's Cross-Motion for a protective order [See, Civil Practice Law and Rules §3103], asks that this Court prospectively prevent any further discovery requests from Claimant, since he indicates in his moving papers that he intends to serve Defendant with further requests for discovery. While it is correct that a party should not abuse the generally liberal policies concerning disclosure, in the absence of a specific request from Claimant with which Defendant has an objection the Court is constrained to enter a protective order at this time.

Accordingly, Claimant's Motion for sanctions and Defendant's Cross-Motion for a protective order are both denied.



May 1, 2003
White Plains, New York
HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims