New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LOCKETT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-013-050, , Motion No. M-70635


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2005-013-050
Claimant(s):
WILLIE F. LOCKETT
Claimant short name:
LOCKETT
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):

Motion number(s):
M-70635
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
PHILIP J. PATTI
Claimant's attorney:
WILLIE F. LOCKETT, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General of the State of New York
BY: WILLIAM D. LONERGAN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 19, 2005
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision


On October 19, 2005, the following papers were read on motion by Claimant for permission to file a late claim:

Notice of Motion and Affidavit and Proposed Claim Annexed


Opposing Affidavit and Exhibits Annexed

Upon the foregoing papers, this motion is denied.

Claimant moves for permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act §10(6). The underlying incident herein occurred on March 4, 2005 when Claimant, an inmate being transported in a vehicle operated on behalf of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), allegedly was injured. It appears from the allegations of the proposed claim and the supporting affidavit that the driver of the bus, a correction officer, allegedly jammed on the brakes while traveling at least 30 miles per hour, and Claimant, handcuffed and chained around the waist with leg chains and with no seatbelt on, was propelled forward and hit his knees on the back of the seat directly in front of him.

This motion was served by mail on August 23, 2005, and, as Claimant correctly asserts, is timely made within the constraints of CPLR article 2. In addressing the six statutory factors of Section 10(6) seriatim, Claimant's excuse for failing to timely file his claim is his lay status as a non-lawyer and lack of access to counsel or the facility law library during the 90-day period following this incident "because of the illeness [sic] caused by the incident underlying this claim." While incapacity proximately caused by the underlying incident could provide a reasonable excuse for the failure to timely file, here Claimant provides no medical records or specifics to support such contention. Conversely, the Defendant does provide a copy of Claimant's ambulatory health record for the date of the incident, wherein it contends that Claimant did not report any injury related to this accident (Exhibit A to Defendant's affidavit). I find that Claimant has failed to present a reasonable excuse for his failure to timely file. Of course, Claimant need not satisfy all six factors to be successful (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979).

With respect to timely notice of the essential facts constituting the claim and the opportunity to investigate, Claimant relies on the alleged awareness of medical personnel during his several visits to the "prison dispensary," and suggesting that the Defendant had the opportunity to question the bus driver and other inmates who were present on the bus. Medical treatment per se does not necessarily provide notice with respect to the underlying allegations of the incident, but rather only to purported injuries. This argument is weakened inasmuch as Claimant has provided no documentation to support this contention, and, as noted above, the submitted ambulatory health record for the date of the accident does not appear to support the suggestion of notice.

Claimant correctly notes that he has no other available remedy for his alleged injuries, and it does not appear that the Defendant would be substantially prejudiced should I grant this application.

As is typically the case, the most significant factor is that of the appearance of meritoriousness of the underlying cause of action. Claimant ascribes negligence to the driver in hitting the brakes because another inmate had stood up during transport. His proposed claim asserts negligence in not providing safe transportation, not properly maintaining the vehicle, not utilizing seatbelts as "required" for buses, and the lack of proper training of the officers. To the extent that Claimant relies upon the absence of seatbelts to ascribe negligence to the Defendant, I am persuaded that, since seat belts are not required in buses, such allegation does not have merit (see, Figueroa v State of New York , Ct Cl, UID #2003-009-61 [Claim No. 104206, Motion No. M-66320], Dec. 18, 2003, Midey J.[1] [affirmed, 19 AD3d 1053]).

Generally speaking, in a late claim application, it is Claimant's burden to show that the proposed cause of action is not patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective and that there is reasonable ground to believe that a cause of action may exist (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1). Thus, I would consider whether there is the appearance of meritoriousness as to Claimant's remaining allegations of improper maintenance, lack of training and negligence in failing to provide safe transportation.

The Defendant, however, raises a threshold issue of the Claimant's failure to allege, let alone demonstrate, that he has suffered a serious physical injury as defined in Insurance Law §5102(d). It is clear that personal injury actions arising out of the negligent use of a motor vehicle are subject to particular restrictions and it is well-settled that vague and conclusory statements do not qualify to satisfy Claimant's burden to make a showing of a serious injury (Matter of Edwards v State of New York, 119 Misc 2d 355). Here Claimant offers nothing more than his own statement that he hit his knees, "causing extensively [sic] physical injury" and that he is still receiving treatment for his injuries. He estimates a cost for surgery in his ad damnum, but nowhere does he address the nature of his injuries, or the type of surgery he suggests may take place in the future, or supply any documentation addressing his purported injuries. Significantly absent from his motion is any documentation of his physical condition, and, I find that without more Claimant has not made a sufficient showing of serious injury to establish the appearance of merit for late claim purposes (see Dehoney v State of New York, Ct Cl, UID #2003-030-551 [Motion No. M-66564], July 10, 2003, Scuccimarra, J.).

Accordingly, Claimant's motion for permission to file a late claim is in all respects denied.

December 19, 2005
Rochester, New York

HON. PHILIP J. PATTI
Judge of the Court of Claims




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