New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PORTER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-032-033, Claim No. 107972, Motion No. M-68017


Synopsis


A claim that seeks to challenge revocation of claimant's driver's license and vehicle registration pursuant to V&TL §318 is dismissed. The relief sought by claimant cannot be granted by the Court of Claims.

Case Information

UID:
2004-032-033
Claimant(s):
IRENE PORTER
Claimant short name:
PORTER
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK The caption has been amended to reflect the State of New York as the only properly named defendant.
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107972
Motion number(s):
M-68017
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney:
Irene Porter, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney General
By: Saul Aronson, Assistant Attorney General,Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 1, 2004
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

Claimant Irene Porter, appearing pro se, challenges the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV's) revocation of her driver's license, asserting that section 318 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law is unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious, and unconstitutional. As relief, claimant seeks $25,000.00 in compensatory and punitive damages; restoration of her driving privileges at least until she is afforded a due process hearing; revocation of Vehicle and Traffic Law §318 or passage of a "more realistic version" of that statute; and a requirement that "private sector insurance companies [be required to] assist citizens of this State to abide by the laws of the State by accepting partial payments to avoid cancellations" of automobile insurance policies.


Section 318(2)(a) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law provides, in relevant part, that the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles "shall revoke" the registration of a motor vehicle and the driver's license of the registrant upon receipt of evidence that a vehicle registered in this State has been operated or permitted to be operated while it is no longer covered by insurance (i.e., "while proof of financial security was not in effect with respect to that vehicle").[1] Claimant's driver's license and registration were suspended as of June 15, 2003 after her son, who was driving her car, was ticketed for making a turn on a red light and driving an uninsured vehicle.[2] It appears that insurance on claimant's vehicle had lapsed either because of non-payment or because claimant herself had been issued tickets for failure to wear a seat belt and improper display of a license plate (affidavit of Irene Porter, pro se, attached to claim, ¶3). In her subsequent submission, claimant indicates that the cancellation came about because she was $114.00 short of the amount needed to pay for her GEICO account and sent in only a partial payment, which was not accepted (reply affidavit [response] of Irene Porter).

The thrust of claimant's argument is that she was deprived of her license and vehicle registration without due process and that as it is constructed, and as it interacts with the procedures of the insurance companies, the statute authorizing this revocation is unconstitutional in that it imposes a hardship on those of limited or fixed income (id.).

The statutory scheme under which claimant's registration and driver's license were revoked provides that the revocation shall be in effect for one year (V&TL §318[3][b]), but it is possible for a restricted use license to be issued to such person (§318[15]). The action of the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles is mandatory, and he or she has no discretion to refuse to carry out the revocation procedures (Giambra v Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 59 AD2d 648 [4th Dept 1977]). This is true even if the notification of termination sent out by the insurer was sent in error (Hanmer v Tofany, 34 AD2d 383 [4th Dept 1970]). Because these actions are mandatory once the Commissioner receives proof that the financial security is no longer in effect, there can be no civil liability to individuals who are harmed by the revocation, at least without any proof of negligence on the part of a State employee who failed to follow appropriate procedures (Kenny v State of New York, 137 AD2d 498 [2d Dept 1988]).

It has been held that this statutory scheme, which allows suspension or revocation without a prior evidentiary, adversarial hearing does not violate due process (Nole v Passidomo, 118 AD2d 326, 330 [3d Dept 1986]; Johnson v Melton, 100 Misc 2d 991, 993 ["Where the financial security of the public is endangered by a lack of insurance coverage, postsuspension hearings may be compatible with due process."]; see also 8 NY Jur 2, Automobiles and Other Vehicles §574). Through notices received from the insurance company and the Department of Motor Vehicles prior to revocation, the grounds for such action can be challenged ahead of time. Later, a hearing may be obtained and revocation of a driver's license and/or a registration can be appealed to the Department of Motor Vehicles Administrative Appeals Board (Camhi v New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 107 AD2d 535 [2d Dept 1985]). The Board's determination can then receive judicial review in Supreme Court by way of an Article 78 proceeding, or in appropriate cases, review may be sought directly from Supreme Court if the administrative appeal would be futile (Nole v Passidomo, 118 AD2d 326, supra; Conroy v Melton, 53 AD2d 679 [2d Dept 1976]; 8 NY Jur 2d, Automobiles and Other Vehicles §593).

It is very apparent that claimant has chosen the wrong course of action to challenge the revocation of her driver's license and vehicle registration. The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction. It cannot grant equitable relief (such as ordering restoration of claimant's driving privileges); it has no jurisdiction over private entities (such as an insurance company); and it is not the forum in which the constitutionality of a statute is to be tested. Claimant does not allege that her injury was caused by negligence or unauthorized action on the part of any employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles which, in the situation presented here, is the only way that the State could be held liable and money damages awarded to claimant.

CPLR 3212(b) provides that if the submissions before the court establish that any party other than the moving party is entitled to summary judgment, the court may grant such without the necessity of a cross-motion. Although it was claimant who instituted this motion seeking summary judgment in her favor and counsel for defendant did not cross-move for judgment in favor of the State, the Court is convinced that claimant's cause of action lies outside the jurisdiction of this Court and that no matter what proof she presents, she cannot be entitled to recovery in an action that seeks only money damages. For this reason, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of defendant.

Claimant's motion is denied and, on the authority of CPLR 3212(b), the Court directs the Chief Clerk to enter judgment in favor of defendant, dismissing Claim No. 107972.




June 1, 2004
Albany, New York

HON. JUDITH A. HARD
Judge of the Court of Claims


The following papers were read on claimant's motion for summary judgment in her favor:
1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Irene Porter, pro se, with annexed Exhibits

2. Affirmation in Opposition of Saul Aronson, Esq., AAG with attachments

3. Response of Irene Porter, pro se

Filed papers: Claim; Answer



[1] Suspension, rather than revocation, is imposed on persons whose insurance has lapsed but where there is no evidence that the vehicle was operated without insurance (V&TL §318[1]).
[2] This charge was later dropped against claimant's son because he was unaware that the vehicle he was driving was uninsured (V&TL §318[13][a]).