New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WEIL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-033-090, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-68599


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2004-033-090
Claimant(s):
MICHELLE R. WEIL
Claimant short name:
WEIL
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
None
Motion number(s):
M-68599
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JAMES J. LACK
Claimant's attorney:
Ahern & AhernBy: Dennis P. Ahern, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Todd A. Schall, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 3, 2004
City:
Hauppauge
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This is a motion by Michelle R. Weil (hereinafter "movant") for permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act §10(6)[1], 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 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 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 AD2d 792).

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.


December 3, 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: Notice of Motion dated June 1, 2004 and filed June 7, 2004; Affidavit in Support of Dennis P. Ahern, Esq. with annexed Exhibits A-G sworn to June 1, 2004 and filed June 7, 2004; Affirmation in Opposition of Todd A. Schall, Esq. dated August 9, 2004 and filed August 11, 2004; Reply Affidavit of Dennis P. Ahern, Esq. sworn to August 13, 2004 and filed August 23, 2004.