New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LaMOUNTAIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-015-095, Claim No. 111563, Motion Nos. M-71338, M-71339


Synopsis


Court allowed personal property claim to continue but dismissed constitutional tort and intentionally caused mental distress claim. Dismissal of those causes of action renders moot claimant's motion to compel discovery.

Case Information

UID:
2006-015-095
Claimant(s):
RONALD LaMOUNTAIN
Claimant short name:
LaMOUNTAIN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111563
Motion number(s):
M-71338, M-71339
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Ronald La Mountain
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Kevan J. Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 5, 2006
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The State's motion (M-71339) to dismiss the claim except that portion brought pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10 (9) for the loss of personal property is granted. The granting of the State's motion renders academic claimant's motion to compel responses to claimant's interrogatories and requests to produce documents[1] and that motion (M-71338) is therefore denied. The underlying claim filed October 31, 2005 seeks damages including compensation for mental duress and physical pain resulting from a search of claimant's cell at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, Comstock, New York (Great Meadow) on April 12, 2005. It is alleged that items of personal property were seized during the search and have not been returned. In addition to the loss of claimant's property the claim alleges violation of claimant's right to due process under Article 1, Section 6 of the New York State Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the New York State (Article 1, Section 12) and Federal (Fourth Amendment) Constitutions.

Defendant moved to dismiss the claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7) on the ground that the claim fails to state a cause of action and, with the exception of those portions seeking compensation for the loss of personal property, the claim is dismissed. In this regard the Court notes paragraph 2 of claimant's "Rebuttal in Response to Respondent's Motion to Dismiss" which states:
Claimant respectfully agrees with the respondent's argument that he retains no Fourth Amendment claim in this above-referenced matter. Claimant therefore, respectfully withdraws the claim of his Fourth Amendment Rights violation under the United States Constitution and the New York State Constitution from the above-referenced matter, without prejudice.

Since the defendant has not sought dismissal of the portion of the claim alleging injury to or loss of claimant's personal property the sole remaining issue for the Court's consideration is whether the claim states a cause of action for constitutional tort under the due process provisions of Article 1, Section 6 of the New York State Constitution or for violation of claimant's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

A review of the instant claim fails to disclose any cognizable constitutional tort claim under the New York State Constitution as recognized by the Court of Appeals in Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172. In this regard it is noted that the courts of this State are properly reluctant to recognize a constitutional tort under the New York State Constitution where the claimant has or had an alternative remedy available to redress the purported wrong (see Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78; Bullard v State of New York, 307 AD2d 676; Lyles v State of New York, 2 AD3d 694).

Under the facts of this case Court of Claims Act § 10 (9) provides the claimant a clear and effective mechanism to redress the loss of his personal property and the availability of such a remedy militates against implying a constitutional tort cause of action for money damages (see Bullard v State of New York, supra; see also Remley v State of New York, 174 Misc 2d 523). Additionally, it is settled that "[d]amages are not recoverable for mental distress caused by malicious or negligent destruction of personal property", including injury to or loss of such property (Probst v Cacoulidis, 295 AD2d 331, 332; General Acc. Ins. Co. v Black & Decker, 266 AD2d 918; Stanley v Smith, 183 AD2d 675). As a result, the Court finds that the claim fails to set forth a cognizable common law or constitutional tort cause of action for emotional distress attendant to the loss of his personal property and that portion of the claim is, accordingly, dismissed.

Finally, this Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine a claim arising from an alleged violation of the United States Constitution (see Brown v State of New York, supra, at 184; Ferrer v State of New York, 172 Misc 2d 1; Zagarella v State of New York, 149 AD2d 503; Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399). Nor is the State a "person" amenable to suit under 42 USC § 1983 (Ferrick v State of New York, 198 AD2d 822; Matter of Thomas v New York Temporary State Comm. on Regulation of Lobbying, 83 AD2d 723, affd 56 NY2d 656).

The claim is dismissed in all respects except that portion which seeks money damages for the loss of claimant's personal property. The trial of that matter will be added to the Court's next prison term calendar at a date and time to be determined.

The interrogatories which are the subject of claimant's motion (M-71338) relate to the alleged violation of claimant's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Since that part of the claim was withdrawn by claimant and his other constitutional claims have been dismissed, above, claimant's motion to compel responses to interrogatories is denied as academic.


June 5, 2006
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
Motion No. M-71338
  1. Notice of motion dated February 14, 2006;
  2. Affidavit of Ronald LaMountain sworn to February 14, 2006 with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Kevan J. Acton dated February 27, 2006;
  4. Claimant's Rebuttal sworn to March 7, 2006.

Motion No. M-71339

  1. Notice of motion dated February 24, 2006;
  2. Affirmation of Kevan J. Acton dated February 24, 2006;
  3. Rebuttal of Ronald LaMountain sworn to March 7, 2006.


[1].Although claimant cited CPLR 3133 (a) and (b) (i), (ii) [sic] in his notice of motion (M-71338) and his affidavit in support of the motion the Court chose to ignore the mistake (see CPLR 2001) and treat the motion as one seeking an order compelling responses pursuant to CPLR 3124.