New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

VALENTINE v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-018-274, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-67333


Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: G. LAWRENCE DILLON, ESQUIREAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 8, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Movant brings a timely motion seeking permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court

of Claims Act § 10(6) (CPLR 214-a). Defendant opposes the motion.

The proposed claim asserts that movant, while an inmate at Riverview Correctional Facility (hereinafter Riverview) in September 2002, was assigned a cell with another inmate who suffered from a contagious skin rash. By October 2002, movant had contracted the same condition and allegedly repeatedly went to "sick call" complaining about his "affliction." He asserts that he did not receive proper medical care for his condition until March 17, 2003, when he was seen by a dermatologist and diagnosed with scabies. He filed a grievance over his lack of medical care, and sent letters of complaint to the New York State Commission of Corrections, the Inspector General, Commissioner Goord of the Department of Correctional Services, and Lester N. Wright, M.D., Deputy Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Correctional Services. Movant asserts that he has suffered continuing mental and physical injuries as a result of the State's negligence and malpractice.

On an application for permission to file a late claim, consideration must be given to the six factors listed in Court of Claims Act § 10(6) and any other relevant factors. A balancing of all of the factors in the discretion of the Court may warrant the granting of the application to file and serve a late claim; no one factor is determinative (Bay Terrace Cooperative Section IV, Inc., v New York State Employees Retirement System, Policemen and Firemen Retirement System, 55 NY2d 979; Ledet v State of New York, 207 AD2d 965).

The first factor is whether the proposed claimant has an acceptable excuse for failing to timely file and serve a claim. Movant's application indicates that he failed to timely file and serve a claim because he was not aware of the filing period, he could not confer with counsel, and there were inadequate law library resources at Chateaugay Correctional Facility. These are not valid excuses (see Sandlin v State of New York, 294 AD2d 723 [lack of awareness of filing period, inability to confer with counsel and lack of access to legal references were insufficient excuses]; Matter of Galvin v State of New York,176 AD2d 1185, lv denied 79 NY2d 753 [ignorance of the law was no excuse]).

Turning now to the factors of the State's notice of the facts underlying the proposed claim, whether it had an opportunity to investigate the facts, and whether it will suffer prejudice if the application is granted. Movant asserts that the State had notice because of his on-going complaints, and, in fact, the State does not dispute that it had notice.[1] The Court finds that the State had ample notice and an opportunity to investigate and that these factors weigh in favor of granting movant's application.

The next factor, whether the claim appears to be meritorious, is referred to as the most essential factor. Unlike a party who has timely filed a claim, one seeking permission to file a late claim has the heavier burden of demonstrating that the proposed claim appears to be meritorious (see Nyberg v State of New York, 154 Misc 2d 199). Generally a proposed claim meets this standard if it is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective, and upon consideration of the entire record there is cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Authority, 92 Misc 2d 1, 11). The basis for movant's claim is the defendant's improper placement of movant in a cell with an inmate who had an allegedly contagious condition, and the failure of the State to properly and timely diagnose movant's condition and treat it for a period of six months. Movant has not attached any of his medical records, nor has he attached an affidavit from a physician. Where the basis for the claim arises from the rendition of medical care, whether a valid cause of action exists is normally outside the realm of knowledge of a layperson outside of the medical field. Here, whether it was improper to double bunk an inmate with scabies, and whether the defendant's treatment of movant's condition was improper are factors outside the knowledge of the Court. Under these circumstances, an affidavit from a medical professional setting forth what the State did wrong, and how the State's action or inaction allegedly falls below the standard of care, is necessary in order to assess whether movant has a potentially meritorious cause of action (Colson v State of New York, 115 Misc 2d 402). This factor weighs against granting movant's application.

The final factor to be considered is whether movant has any other available remedy. It does not appear that movant has any other remedy.

Upon balancing all of the factors in the Court of Claims Act § 10(6), this Court DENIES the motion, without prejudice. Movant may resubmit his application with the proper affidavit in support of the potential meritoriousness of his claim.

January 8, 2004
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court has considered the following documents in deciding this motion:

Notice of Motion.........................................................................................1

Affidavit of Chaun Valentine, in support, with exhibits attached thereto..............................................................................................2

Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon, Esquire, Assistant Attorney

General, in opposition......................................................................3

[1] Although in the last sentence of paragraph 12 defendant states, "[w]ithout an ability to fully investigate, having no notice, the State is clearly prejudiced by the application to late file a claim."[emphasis added] Despite defendant's contradictory assertions, the Court finds the State had ample notice of movant's complaints.