New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RIPP v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-016-069, Claim No. 108357, Motion Nos. M-70516, CM-70690


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2005-016-069
Claimant(s):
ROBERT RIPP and BETHANN RIPP
Claimant short name:
RIPP
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
108357
Motion number(s):
M-70516
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-70690
Judge:
Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Oshman & Mirisola, LLPBy: David L. Kremen, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Ellen Matowik, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 16, 2005
City:
New York
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This is defendant's motion to dismiss the claim of Robert and Bethann Ripp, in which it is alleged that on July 29, 2002, Mr. Ripp slipped and fell on a staircase at the Criminal Court Building at 100 Center Street in Manhattan because of the "excessively worn steps" and "fail[ure] to provide proper lighting . . ." Claim, ¶3. Defendant argues that it is the City of New York, not the State, which bears responsibility for the aforesaid conditions. Claimants cross-move for an order permitting them to serve an amended bill of particulars, compelling defendant to appear for an examination before trial and extending the deadline for the filing of a note of issue. The provision of "suitable and sufficient" judicial facilities for the State's major trial courts is essentially a local function provided by cities and counties. See 1996 McKinney's Session Laws p. 2618 for ch. 686. On April 1, 1998, one aspect of that responsibility was transferred to the State – the cleaning of the interiors of such court facilities. See Judiciary Law §39-b.2.

Judiciary Law §39-b.1(b) defines the term ‘cleaning of court facilities' as:
those services and activities that are necessary to insure that the interior of each court facility is and remains a clean and healthful environment in which to transact the business of the unified court system. These services and activities include, but are not limited to: removal of trash and debris; maintenance of appropriate standards of hygiene; painting; pest control; and replacement of consumable items such as light bulbs, soap, toilet paper and paper towelling. They also shall include the making of minor repairs in accordance with rules of the chief judge.


22 NYCRR §34.2(b)(3) defines "minor repairs" as:

such repairs as are required to replace a part or put together what is torn or broken, or to restore a surface or finish, where such repairs will preserve and/or restore a court facility to full functionality; and shall include only . . . painting, carpeting, and other resurfacing of, or finish work related to, the interiors of spaces used by the Unified Court System . . .


Essentially, claimants argue that the "excessively worn steps" and "fail[ure] to provide proper lighting" resulted from defendant's failure to provide cleaning services (including minor repairs) as such terms are defined. As to the steps, which are marble, claimants have submitted the affidavit of an expert who states that the steps could have been made safe by either replacing the worn sections or by patching them to level out surface inconsistencies and make them less smooth. As to lighting, he states that "[b]etter lighting should also be installed" and "greater watt bulbs" could have been provided. See exhibit E to claimants' cross-motion papers. Defendant, who did not submit an expert affidavit or the affidavit of an employee, argues to the contrary, i.e, stating that "[r]eplacement of steps and mounting lighting fixtures" are not within the purview of the statute.

In any event, from what has been submitted by the parties, it is unclear whether the alleged dangerous conditions resulted from a failure of the State to comply with Judiciary Law §39-b. As to claimants' cross-motion, the matters raised therein concern discovery and are more properly addressed at a conference, which will be scheduled by the Court.

For the foregoing reasons, having reviewed the parties' submissions[1], IT IS ORDERED that motion no. M-70516 and CM-70690 be denied.


November 16, 2005
New York, New York

HON. ALAN C. MARIN
Judge of the Court of Claims




  1. [1]The following were reviewed: defendant's notice of motion with affirmation in support and exhibits A through D; claimants' notice of cross-motion with affirmation in support and exhibits A through I; defendant's affirmation in reply with exhibits A and B; and claimants' reply affirmation with exhibit A.