New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SINGH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-033-068, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-67974


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2004-033-068
Claimant(s):
BALJINDER SINGH
Claimant short name:
SINGH
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK Movant is directed to name only The State of New York as the appropriate defendant in this matter. The Court has no jurisdiction over individual agencies of The State of New York.
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
None
Motion number(s):
M-67974
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
James J. Lack
Claimant's attorney:
Seth D. Zukoff, Esq.John Evans Bos, Esq., Of Counsel to Seth D. Zukoff, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Todd A. Schall, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 24, 2004
City:
Hauppauge
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This is a motion of Baljinder Singh (hereinafter "movant") for permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act §10(6)[1], relating to alleged negligence due to labor law violations occurring on August 12, 2003 at the Ridge Conservation Area and Maintenance Center, 484 Randall Road, Ridge, New York.

According to the movant's papers, he was working at the above location on August 12, 2003, for L&B Construction, Inc. The above-named location is owned by the State of New York (hereinafter "defendant"). The structure at this location was being demolished. Movant was located in the basement of the structure at the time of the accident. The proposed claim indicates that debris was being hoisted out of the basement by use of a "Bobcat". A piece of the Bobcat became dislodged and fell into the basement and struck movant. Movant indicates he was then hospitalized until August 21, 2003 and thereafter remained confined to his home for approximately the next three months.

Defendant opposes movant's application.

In order to determine whether to grant a timely made application for permission to file a late claim, the Court must consider, among any other relevant factors, the six statutory factors set forth in Court of Claims Act §10(6):

(1) whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable;

(2) whether the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim;

(3) whether the State had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim;

(4) whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or serve a timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State;

(5) whether movant has another available remedy; and

(6) whether the claim appears to be meritorious.


The Court in the exercise of its discretion balances these factors, and, as a general rule, the presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement System Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement System, 55 NY2d 979).

Movant attributes the delay in filing a claim to his hospitalization and confinement to bed at home for approximately three months. While under certain circumstances such hospitalization and confinement to bed may be a reasonable excuse, the Court does not find so in this instance. Movant's assertion is unsupported. Therefore, the Court finds that this factor does not weigh in movant's favor.

The second, third and fourth factors (notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; and whether the delay resulted in substantial prejudice to the State) are related. The Court will consider these factors together.

It appears that movant was injured while working on property owned by the defendant. Directly after his accident an employee of the defendant met with the movant at the hospital and interviewed him concerning the accident. The Court finds that the defendant had notice of the essential facts as a result of its investigation after the accident. Further, the Court finds that such a claim will not result in substantial prejudice to the defendant.

At this point, movant seems to be unaware of any other parties which may be held accountable for the incident. This lack of knowledge is the basis for movant's application for pre-action discovery. Therefore, it appears that movant does not have an alternative remedy.

While the presence or absence of any one of the six factors in not dispositive, (see Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement System Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement System, 55 NY2d 979), the most critical factor always is the apparent merit of the proposed claim. The movant need only establish that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective and 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). If a movant cannot meet this low threshold and the claim is patently without merit it would be meaningless and futile for the Court to grant the application even if all the other factors in Court of Claims Act §10(6) weighed in favor of the movant's request.

The Court is satisfied that the claim appears to be meritorious. Movant was working at a facility owned by the defendant when an accident occurred in which he was injured. According to movant, he was engaged in an activity protected by Labor Law §240(1) and also seems to make sufficient allegations pursuant to Labor Law §241(6).

In conclusion, the majority of factors favor movant. Therefore, movant's application to file a late claim is granted. Movant shall serve and file the proposed claim within forty-five (45) days of the filing of this decision in accordance with §§10, 11 and 11-a of the Court of Claims Act. The Court denies movant's request for pre-action discovery pursuant to CPLR 3102(c). The documents sought may be obtained from the State, prior to the start of the action, through the Freedom of Information Law.



August 24, 2004
Hauppauge, New York

HON. JAMES J. LACK
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]The following papers have been read and considered on movant's motion to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act §10(6): Notice of Motion dated January 20, 2004 and filed January 27, 2004; Affidavit of Baljinder Singh sworn to January 22, 2004 and filed January 27, 2004; Affirmation in Support of Seth D. Zukoff, Esq. with annexed Exhibits A-C dated January 20, 2004 and filed January 27, 2004; Affirmation in Opposition of Todd A. Schall, Esq. with annexed Exhibits A-B dated March 31, 2004 and filed April 5, 2004; Reply Affirmation of John Evans Bos, Esq. dated April 27, 2004 and filed April 29, 2004.