Movant's proposed claim alleges that on April 18, 2003, at Camp Gabriels
Correctional Facility, he experienced a sharp pain in the area of his testicles
while completing a work assignment. He reported this to the correction officer
in charge and was transported to the medical unit, where he was seen by a
physician. The doctor indicated that movant should rest and that he would be
called in for a follow-up examination on April 22nd. Movant did not receive a
call to the medical unit, however, and when he reported this to a correction
officer, he states that he was ignored. The officer then directed movant to
return to his work scrubbing baseboards. When movant refused to comply, he was
taken to the medical unit. Once there, movant alleges, the doctor "gave me a
hard time," and he states that no further treatment has been provided. In his
affidavit in support of the motion, movant refers to subsequent events, but
allegations on these events are not contained in the proposed claim.
This motion was brought less than a year after the date of accrual and a like
action against a citizen would not be barred by the applicable statute of
limitations (CPLR 214).
In determining a motion for permission to file a late claim, the Court must
consider, among other relevant factors, the six factors set forth in subdivision
6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act: 1) whether the delay in filing the
claim was excusable; 2) whether the State had notice of the essential facts
constituting the claim; 3) whether the State had an opportunity to investigate
the circumstances underlying the claim; 4) whether the claim appears to be
meritorious; 5) whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or serve a
timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State; and
6) whether the claimant has another available remedy. The Court in the exercise
of its discretion balances these factors. It is well accepted that the presence
or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV
v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement
Sys., 55 NY2d 979 ).
Movant does not offer any excuse for his delay in commencing this action other
than his ignorance of the law and the fact that he is incarcerated. Ignorance
of the law, specifically the practice requirements of the Court of Claims Act
does not excuse a litigant's delay (see, e.g., Erca v State of New
York, 51 AD2d 611 [3d Dept 1976], affd 42 NY2d 854; Sevillia v
State of New York, 91 AD2d 792 [3d Dept 1982]). In addition, incarceration
is not a disability per se (see Civil Rights Law §79), and an inmate
who claims he was denied access to the law library or other impediments must
make an affirmative showing that the circumstances of his incarceration
prevented taking effective steps (Bommarito v State of New York, 35 AD2d
458 [4th Dept 1971]).
Movant makes no meaningful assertion that the State had notice of the essential
facts constituting the claim or that correction officials had an opportunity to
investigate those underlying facts. Permitting the proposed claim to be filed,
therefore, could result in some prejudice to the State. Most significantly,
movant has a more appropriate remedy available to him in the form of an Article
78 proceeding, particularly since it appears that the primary relief he seeks is
treatment for his injury.
The most critical factor in determining whether permission to late file should
be granted is the apparent merit of the proposed claim, for permitting a
defective claim to be filed would be meaningless and futile (Prusack v State
of New York, 117 AD2d 729 [2d Dept 1986]; Rosenhack v State of New
York, 112 Misc 2d 967 [Ct Cl 1982]). In order to meet this requirement, a
movant must establish that the proposed claim is not patently groundless,
frivolous, or legally defective and that there is reasonable cause to believe
that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State
Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1 [Ct Cl 1977]).
In the proposed claim submitted with this motion, movant has not clearly
identified the wrongful acts of the State on which this claim is based. More
significantly, as is noted above, it appears that claimant's primary goal is to
obtain appropriate treatment for his groin injury. The Court of Claims does not
have jurisdiction to grant such relief.
Consideration of the factors set forth in Court of Claims Act § 10
(6) indicate that claimant is not entitled to the requested relief, and
consequently the motion is denied.