Movants' proposed claim
alleges that, on
November 15, 2003, Mia Wilson and Madilyn Wilson were injured when the vehicle
in which they were riding was struck by another vehicle. Movants' vehicle was
proceeding south on State Route 9N, in the Town of Greenfield, and the car that
struck them was driving west on Spier Falls Road which intersects with Route 9N.
According to the proposed claim, the State's liability for movants' injuries is
premised on its failure to carry out its duty "to so own, operate, maintain,
sign and regulate the said roadway . . . in a safe and proper manner and
condition for travel thereon by vehicles" (proposed claim, ¶8). This
failure, it is alleged, allowed the road and subject intersection "to become and
remain in an unsafe, unreasonably dangerous and defective condition,
constituting a hidden peril, pitfall and/or concealed trap and thereby
foreseeably causing grave peril to the vehicular traffic using the said roadway"
, ¶9). The affidavit in support of the motion to permit filing
of this claim contains no further details about the accident or the basis for
the State's proposed liability, and the police accident report (Lamarche
affidavit, Exhibit A) states only that one vehicle was southbound on Route 9N
when the other vehicle "pulled out from Spier Falls Road" and struck
In this instance, it is unnecessary to consider any of the factors enumerated in
Court of Claims Act §10(6) other than the apparent merit of the
To establish sufficient merit, the 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, 11 [Ct Cl 1977]). In many respects this is the most important of the
enumerated factors, for even if all other factors favor granting the motion, it
has been held that permitting a defective claim to be filed would be both
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]).
Pursuant to CPLR 3013, "[s]tatements in a pleading shall be sufficiently
particular to give the court and parties notice of the transactions,
occurrences, or series of transactions or occurrences, intended to be proved and
the material elements of each cause of action or defense."
purpose of a pleading, particularly a claim or complaint, is to provide notice,
to advise the opposing party of the claim (Foley v D'Agostino
, 21 AD2d 60
[1st Dept 1964]). "[T]he primary function of pleadings," it is said is
"adequately advising the adverse party of the pleader's claim or defense"
, citing to
David D. Siegel, A Biannual Survey of New York
Practice, 38 St. John's L. Rev., pp 190, 199-200.) "Where a pleading is
attacked for alleged inadequacy in its statements, our inquiry should be limited
to ‘whether it states in some recognizable form any cause of action known
to our law'" (id., citing to Dulberg v Mock
, 1 NY2d 54, 56 )
or, as stated elsewhere, whether the factual allegations contained within the
pleading "indicate the existence of a cause of action" (Guggenheimer v
, 43 NY2d 268 ).
Although the "fact pleading"
requirement of the earlier Civil Practice Act was dropped with the adoption of
still the statements in a pleading
should be factual and should "provide a factual basis for each cause of action
or defense" (Weinstein, Korn & Miller, New York Civil Practice: CPLR
¶ 3013:3, see also
, ¶ 3013:1; Siegel, Practice
Commentaries, McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 7B, C3013:4, p 723).
considered against these criteria, the instant proposed claim is entirely
deficient. The only factual allegations it contains are the location and time
of the accident, the directions in which the two vehicles were traveling, and
the fact that they collided. All of the other allegations are conclusory
statements and what could most accurately be described as legal conclusions.
Conclusory allegations alone are insufficient to meet the pleading requirements
of either CPLR 3013 (Johnson v Goord
, 290 AD2d 844 [3d Dept 2002]) or the
requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) (Heisler v State of New
, 78 AD2d 767, 767-768 [4th Dept 1980]; Patterson v State of New
, 54 AD2d 147 [4th Dept 1976]["claimant has alleged injury due to
defendant's negligence [but h]e has not alleged in what manner he was injured
nor how the State was negligent"]). Nor can legal conclusions, unsupported by
any facts, satisfy either pleading requirement (see, generally Chico v
300 AD2d 105 [1st Dept 2002]; Spry v Delaware County
253 AD2d 178 [3d Dept 1999]).
The proposed claim contains nothing that
provides notice of the specific acts or omissions on the part of State officers
or employees that movant will attempt to prove caused or contributed to her
injuries. This degree of lack of specificity rises to the level of a
jurisdictional defect, at least with respect to claims filed in this Court. The
Court of Appeals has recently stated that the guiding principle of section 11(b)
of the Act, which sets forth the required content of claims and notices of
intention, is to enable the State to promptly investigate claims and to
ascertain the possibility that it may be liable under the circumstances
(Lepkowski v State of New York,
1 NY3d 201, 207 ,
quoting Heisler v State of New York
, 78 AD2d 767 [4th Dept 1980,
]). It would be relatively easy for the State to obtain information
about the accident, because the location and time are provided in sufficient
detail, but movant has given no hint of the manner in which she will contend
that the State, rather than the drivers of the two vehicles, is at fault and
played some part in causing the collision.
Because the proposed claim does
not provide "reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists"
(Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth.
, 92 Misc 2d 1, 11,
), the motion is denied.