New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WATSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-030-506, Claim No. 108382, Motion No. M-67715


Synopsis


Case Information

UID:
2004-030-506
Claimant(s):
CHARLES WATSON
Claimant short name:
WATSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
108382
Motion number(s):
M-67715
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
CHARLES WATSON, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERALBY: MARY B. KAVANEY, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 13, 2004
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers, numbered 1 to 5, were read and considered on Claimant's motion

to dismiss defenses:

1,2 Notice of Motion, Affidavit in Support by Charles Watson, Claimant

  1. Affirmation in Opposition by Mary B. Kavaney, Assistant Attorney General
4,5 Filed Papers: Claim, Answer

After carefully considering the papers submitted and the applicable law the motion is disposed of as follows:

Charles Watson, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 108382 that Defendant's agents intentionally or negligently lost or destroyed his property while he was in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter DOCS) at Downstate Correctional Facility (hereafter Downstate). In its Answer, in addition to general denials, the Defendant raises two affirmative defenses. The first affirmative defense states "The claimant fails to state a cause of action, in that the destruction of the claimant's property was done in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Department of Corrections, and that he did not have the funding to pay for the transfer of the property." Presumably this is an effort to articulate the immunity defense, where it would be claimed that defendant's acts were privileged as being discretionary determinations, made by agents acting within the scope of their employment, and cloaked with immunity. The second affirmative defense alleges Claimant's failure to file the Claim in accordance with Court of Claims Act §§10 and 11, creating a lack of jurisdiction. Although the second affirmative defense makes reference to the one hundred twenty (120) day statute of limitations applicable in a lost property claim, [See Court of Claims Act §10(9)], it does not appear to make reference to exhaustion of administrative remedies.

Claimant's motion seeks dismissal of the affirmative defenses, asserting that the Claim accrued on June 2, 2003, and that his administrative remedies were exhausted on September 2, 2003 when his claim was denied by the State office of DOCS. The Claim brought in this court, according to affidavit of service, was served upon the Office of the Attorney General on or about September 29, 2003, and filed with the Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims on October 9, 2003. These time periods are well within the limitation periods provided for by statute. Court of Claims Act §10(9). Claimant's remaining arguments would more properly await the trial of the matter, given that he simply asserts that Defendant did not follow its own regulations with regard to the disposal of inmate property, which is a factual issue.

In an Affirmation in Opposition, the Assistant Attorney General reminds the Court that an affirmative defense is raised in an Answer to provide adequate notice to the Claimant of issues of law or fact that the Defendant may raise at trial or in later motion practice. Cipriano v City of New York, 96 AD2d 817 (2d Dept 1983). They are not intended to be dispositive of the Claim. Indeed, Civil Practice Law and Rules §3018(b), concerning responsive pleadings, provides in pertinent part that ". . . [a] party shall plead all matters which if not pleaded would be likely to take the adverse party by surprise or would raise issues of fact not appearing on the face of a prior pleading such as . . . collateral estoppel, culpable conduct . . . or statute of limitation. The application of this subdivision shall not be confined to the instances enumerated." The Assistant Attorney General also asserts that at this early stage of a proceeding, when little to no discovery has been undertaken, it would be imprudent to exclude any potential defense. This Court agrees. Somewhat ambiguously, the Assistant Attorney General states at paragraph 5 of her Affirmation, "There is nothing to indicate the destruction of the claimant's property was in any way contrary to the directives in the Department of Corrections believed that the possession of the property violated rules and procedures and that was why it was destroyed. The defendant withdraws the second of the affirmative defense due to the fact the administrative procedures were used (sic)." If the Court has interpreted this correctly, the Defendant is withdrawing the jurisdictional defense, and stating that the first defense is still asserted.

The Court notes that both defenses asserted lack any clarity and therefore do not satisfy pleading requirements.

Accordingly, Claimant's motion is granted and both Defendant's affirmative defenses are stricken.

February 13, 2004
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims