This is a motion by Michelle R. Weil (hereinafter "movant") for permission to
file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act
, relating to alleged negligence of
the State of New York (hereinafter "State") on February 2, 2004.
The alleged negligence occurred when movant was arrested by Suffolk County
Police Officers. Movant's arrest was based upon a warrant issued for her
failure to pay a fine on or before January 8, 2004. However, movant had paid
the fine on October 31, 2003.
Defendant opposes the motion.
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
(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 her mistaken belief that the
Suffolk County Police Department was the party responsible for her arrest.
Movant filed a notice of claim against the Suffolk County Police Department, but
discovered that a mistake had been made by the Court Clerk's Office in removing
the warrant in the first place.
Movant's delay in timely filing and serving a claim or serving a notice of
intention is attributable to ignorance of the law. However, ignorance of the
law is not a reasonable excuse (see, Sevillia v State of New York, 91
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.
The allegations of movant indicate that defendant's employees caused the
mistake which resulted in movant's arrest. It can, therefore, be presumed that
defendant was aware of the basic facts. The facts of this case are not
transient in nature. To the contrary, the papers are preserved in the
defendant's possession and defendant can investigate now anything that could
have been investigated within 90 days of the accrual of this claim. For the
foregoing reasons, the Court finds that no prejudice inures to the defendant.
Movant does not appear to have an alternative remedy.
While the presence or absence of any one of the six factors is 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 exhibits the appearance of merit.
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 pursuant to Court of Claims Act §§10, 11 and 11-a
within forty-five (45) days of the filing of this decision and order.