This is a claim for property damage to a fence owned by Gildersleeve Park for
Mobile Homes, Inc. (hereinafter "claimant"). The damage was caused by the
alleged action of an employee of the defendant. The claim alleges that on March
2, 2003, a fence on claimant's property was damaged by a snowplow, owned and
operated by the defendant.
Defendant moves to dismiss the claim
to: claimant's failure to plead an adequate description as required by Court of
Claims Act §11; Vehicle and Traffic Law §1103(b), and lack of duty
owed to claimant.
In opposition, claimant argues that he has not been allowed to conduct adequate
discovery in order to properly answer this motion.
Conferences were held by the parties with the Court on October 9, 2003 and
February 24, 2004. At that time, claimant was ordered to go to the NYS
Department of Transportation (hereinafter "DOT") office in Hauppauge, New York,
and conduct a document inspection. According to claimant, he received a letter
from the records officer of DOT indicating that records could not be released
pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law because they were the subject of
litigation (claimant's Exhibit A). In the subsequent months following this
letter, claimant tried on several occasions to obtain the records through the
Attorney General's office or by going to DOT. Prior to receiving the records,
defendant filed the instant motion.
The requirements of the Court of Claims Act are jurisdictional in nature and
must be strictly construed (Lurie v State of New York, 73 AD2d 1006,
affd 52 NY2d 849). The purpose of these requirements is to give the
State prompt notice of an occurrence and an opportunity to investigate the facts
and prepare a defense. There must be sufficient detail to enable the State to
investigate (Schwartzberg v State of New York, 121 Misc 2d 1095, affd
98 AD2d 902). Pursuant to the Court of Claims Act, a claim must include the
time when and place where the claim arose, the nature of the claim, items of
damage or injuries sustained as well as the total sum claimed. If the original
document does not include all that is essential to constitute a claim, the
document is jurisdictionally defective (Grande v State of New York, 160
Misc 2d 383) and the claim is subject to dismissal even if there is no prejudice
to defendant (Byrne v State of New York, 104 AD2d 782 lv denied 64 NY2d
In examining the description of the claim, the Court finds that claimant has
met the requirements of the Court of Claims Act.
As to defendant's remaining arguments, the Court finds they are premature. To
date, claimant has not been able to conduct document discovery or depositions of
defendant's employees. Defendant does not admit that one of its snowplows
caused the damage to claimant's property. Rather, defendant argues that if its
snowplow did cause the damage, then there is no liability. The Court is unable
to determine if the recklessness standard applies or not because no evidence, in
admissible form, has been presented.
Based upon the foregoing, defendant's motion is denied.