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
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
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
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
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
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.