Movant's application for late claim relief pursuant to Court of Claims Act
§ 10 (6) is denied. The proposed claim seeks to recover damages for
personal injuries allegedly sustained by movant when he slipped and fell on an
icy walkway on January 4, 2004 at approximately 2:45 p.m. while an inmate at the
Washington Correctional Facility Farm in Washington County, New York. The
movant allegedly sustained an injury to his right hand as a result of the fall
which he promptly reported to the officer in charge of movant's work crew.
Subdivision 6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act permits this Court, if
the applicable Statute of Limitations set forth in article 2 of the CPLR has not
expired, to allow the filing of a late claim upon consideration of the
following factors: "whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable;
whether the state had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim;
whether the state had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying
the claim; whether the claim appears to be meritorious; whether the failure to
file or serve upon the attorney general a timely claim or to serve upon the
attorney general a notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the
state; and, whether the claimant has any other available remedy".
The motion filed on June 1, 2004 is timely in that a personal injury claim
arising from the alleged negligence of the State is governed by the three year
Statute of Limitations set forth in CPLR § 214 (5).
Turning to the statutory factors, this Court has broad discretion in deciding a
motion to permit the late filing of a claim (Ledet v State of New York,
207 AD2d 965), and the statutory factors are not exhaustive or one factor
controlling (Matter of Gavigan v State of New York, 176 AD2d 1117). The
most important factor is whether the potential claim has merit, as it would be a
futile exercise to permit litigation of a clearly baseless lawsuit (Savino v
State of New York, 199 AD2d 254).
Movant alleges that the delay in filing the claim stemmed from his status as a
layman ignorant of the legal requirements imposed by the Court of Claims Act.
He also cites his lack of access to legal counsel and the need for a translator.
Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse (Griffin v John Jay
, 266 AD2d 16) and limited access to legal resources does not excuse
one from the timely service and filing requirements of the Court of Claims Act
(see Sandlin v State of New York
, 294 AD2d 723). "Equally without
merit is the excuse that there is a language barrier (Rodrigues v State of
, 143 AD2d 993; Figueroa v City of New York
, 92 AD2d 908)"
(Lau v State of New York
, Ct Cl, December 24, 2001 [Claim No. None,
Motion No. M-64086, UID # 2001-028-574] Sise, J.,
The intertwined issues of notice, opportunity to investigate and prejudice will
be considered together. The proposed claim alleges that movant fell and was
injured at 2:45 p.m. and that the incident was promptly reported to the officer
in charge at 3:00 p.m. The officer is not identified in either the claim or the
papers submitted in support of the motion. Although the papers allege that
prison medical personnel were aware of movant's injury those persons are not
identified and no incident reports or medical records were submitted. Under
these circumstances it is clear that the movant has failed to demonstrate that
the defendant received timely notice of the essential elements of the claim and
was afforded an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the
It is equally clear that the State would be prejudiced by movant's delay in
serving and filing a claim. The condition which allegedly caused movant's
injuries, ice on a walkway, was transitory in nature and neither the proposed
claim nor the motion papers allege that the incident was witnessed, no witnesses
were identified and no witness statements were received. The issues of notice,
opportunity to investigate and prejudice weigh against granting the
Regarding the issue of merit, the proposed claim appears to present a
potentially viable cause of action for negligently caused personal injury. In
order to establish a meritorious claim it is movant's burden to show that the
proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective and
there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid claim exists (see,
Rosenhack v State of New York, 112 Misc 2d 967; Santana, Matter of, v
New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1). In the Court's view movant has
met that minimal burden.
As to the final factor, it does not appear that movant has any other legal
remedy available under the circumstances and this factor weighs in favor of
granting the application.
Consideration of all of the statutory factors leads this Court to deny the