New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SPRINGER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-009-053, Claim No. 111361, Motion Nos. M-70742, CM-70755


Synopsis


Claimants' application for an order directing the State to provide notice of a potential claim, prior to certification of class action status was denied.

Case Information

UID:
2005-009-053
Claimant(s):
TIMOTHY SPRINGER and JACQUELINE SPRINGER, Individually and on behalf of their infant children, ADAM SPRINGER, KELLY SPRINGER and RACHEL SPRINGER The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption of this claim to reflect the fact that the State of New York is the only proper party defendant.
Claimant short name:
SPRINGER
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption of this claim to reflect the fact that the State of New York is the only proper party defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111361
Motion number(s):
M-70742
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-70755
Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant's attorney:
UNDERBERG & KESSLER, LLP
BY: Paul V. Nunes, Esq., and
Colin D. Ramsey, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General
BY: Ed J. Thompson, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 17, 2005
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

By Order to Show Cause, claimants have made application for an Order directing the State to provide notice of a potential claim to all those persons who the State has reason to believe were exposed to the gastrointestinal parasite cryptosporidium at a water spray park ("Spraypark") located at Seneca Lake State Park near Geneva, New York. In response, defendant has cross-moved for a protective order. Pursuant to the Order to Show Cause, oral argument on this application was heard on October 5, 2005.

In addition to the oral argument, the following papers have been considered by the Court in connection with these motions:
Order to Show Cause, Attorney Affidavit, with Exhibit (M-70742) 1,2


Notice of Motion, Affirmation (CM-70755) 3,4

Memorandum of Law in Support of Claimants' Motion 5

Correspondence dated October 19, 2005 from Ed J. Thompson, Esq., Assistant Attorney General 6

Between June and August, 2005, an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis occurred, which was eventually traced to contaminated water at the Spraypark at Seneca Lake State Park, resulting in the closure of the Spraypark in mid-August, 2005 by the State Department of Health. Claimants have filed their claim seeking damages from such exposure, and in their filed claim, they have evidenced an intention to seek class action certification. Claimants have not yet sought certification of this class.

Rather, in the instant proceeding, claimants seek an Order from this Court compelling the State to provide notice to potential claimants, prior to certification of the class, by mailing such a notice to all persons who have contacted the State Department of Health, or any other State entity, regarding possible exposure to cryptosporidiosis at the Spraypark.

Pursuant to Article 9 of the CPLR, which governs class actions, reasonable notice of the commencement of a class action is to be given to the potential members of the class in a manner directed by the Court (CPLR § 904[b]). Claimants contend, however, that in this matter notice should be provided to potential claimants prior to class certification, due to the strict time constraints for instituting a claim against the State provided by the Court of Claims Act.

Specifically, pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10(3), a claim to recover damages based upon negligence must be served and filed within 90 days after the date of accrual of such claim, unless a notice of intention to file a claim is served upon the Attorney General. The notice of intention, however, must also be served within 90 days of accrual of such claim. Claimants therefore argue that it is appropriate and necessary for the State to advise potential claimants that either a claim or notice of intention must be served and/or filed to protect their rights and their opportunity to participate in the class action litigation.

The Court of Claims, however, is a Court of limited jurisdiction. The Court has no jurisdiction over actions demanding equitable relief, although it does have such powers necessary to carry out its jurisdictional mandate (Court of Claims Act § 9[11]). The Court has the authority to grant equitable relief only when such relief is incidental to a claim for money judgment (Psaty v Duryea, 306 NY 413).

In this matter, the Court has reviewed all relevant statutory and case law, including that submitted by claimants, and finds no authority upon which it may grant the relief sought by claimants in this application.

Furthermore, even if it had the authority to grant the unique relief sought by claimants in this application, the Court finds that it would not grant such relief under the facts and circumstances existing herein. It is claimants' contention that due to the time constraints set forth in Court of Claims Act § 10, the State should provide written notice to potential claimants advising them of their potential claim, and further advising them of the specific time requirements for instituting a claim against the State contained in the Court of Claims Act. Otherwise, claimants maintain that numerous potential claimants will be forever time-barred from joining the class, once certified, due to their failure to either serve and file a claim, or serve a notice of intention to file a claim, within 90 days of accrual of their claim.

It is apparent, however, that the vast majority of potential claimants who were exposed to the cryptosporidium parasite are infants, and Court of Claims Act § 10(5) specifically permits a claim to be presented within two years after the removal of a disability, such as infancy. The claim of any infant, therefore, would be tolled pursuant to § 10(5), and would not be barred by the limitations set forth in § 10(3).

Additionally, for any potential claims not affected by § 10(5), late claim relief is available under Court of Claims Act § 10(6) for any potential claimants who have not timely served and filed a claim, or timely served a notice of intention.[1] In this Court's opinion, the State would be hard-pressed to successfully contest the granting of late claim relief under these circumstances, since it certainly has had notice of a potential claim, the opportunity to investigate the potential claim, and would be unable to establish any substantial prejudice should late claim relief be granted.

Based on the foregoing, and after careful consideration of all of the papers submitted herein and the points made at oral argument, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-70742 is hereby DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED, that Cross-Motion No. CM-70755 is also DENIED, as moot.

November 17, 2005
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] Under § 10(6), an application for late claim relief may be brought at any time before "a like claim against a citizen of the state would be barred under the provisions of article two of the civil practice law and rules."