New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GOODALE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-028-532, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-70851


Motion to late file a claim based on allegations that an inmate was wrongfully denied the opportunity to attend a relative’s funeral is denied because the proposed claim has no legal merit.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
BY: Frederick H. McGown, III, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 21, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read on Movant’s motion for permission to file an untimely claim:

1. Application of Gary Melvin Goodale, with annexed exhibits

2. Affirmation in Opposition of Assistant Attorney General, Frederick H. McGown, III

Filed papers: None

Movant seeks an order pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10 (6) permitting him to serve and file a late claim. The proposed Claim attached to his moving papers alleges that on August 30, 2003, while incarcerated at Greene Correctional Facility, Movant learned that his aunt, Patricia Goodale, had passed away. With the help of a facility chaplain, Imam Gaber, Movant initiated the process to obtain permission to attend the funeral. His relationship with the decedent was confirmed through his grandmother; the time and place of the viewing and funeral, to be held in Oswego, was also confirmed; and a private viewing for Movant was arranged to be held from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 2, 2003.

On the morning of September 2, with Imam Gaber away on vacation, Movant was informed by another chaplain, Reverand Prisk, that Superintendent Woods had problems with the paperwork, specifically that there was nothing to indicate that the deceased was a part of Movant’s life or had had any contact with him since his incarceration in 1999. Movant submitted a memorandum addressing these questions (Goodale application, 1st Exhibit). In speaking to Superintendent Woods later in the day, Movant was told that the trip scheduled for Sept. 2 was denied but that his application to attend the funeral, scheduled for Sept. 3, would be reconsidered. The following day, the funeral visit was denied on the ground that the decedent was “[n]ot a parent or sibling; unable to establish the deceased was living with grandmother when inmate Goodale was being raised in the home.” Movant subsequently filed a grievance and pursued its appeal, but the Superintendent’s determination was upheld at each level.

Movant challenges the determination on the ground that there was evidence of a close relationship with the decedent which was not considered (telephone records prior to 2002) and a legitimate reason for lack of communication in the following years (his aunt had become deaf and unable to speak or hold a telephone). He seeks money damages for the mental suffering that he experienced and the depression that he began to suffer after this incident.

In determining a motion for permission to file a late claim, the Court must consider, among other relevant factors, the six factors set forth in subdivision 6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act: 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 claim appears to be meritorious; 5) whether the failure to file and serve a timely claim or serve a timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State; and 6) whether the movant has another available remedy. The Court in the exercise of its discretion balances these factors.

As a general proposition, the presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees’ Retirement Sys. Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979 [1982]). The factor of the proposed claim’s apparent merit can be an exception to this rule, however, because permitting a defective claim to be filed, even if the other factors supported the granting of movant's motion, would be meaningless and futile and can be considered an abuse of discretion (Savino v State of New York, 199 AD2d 254 [2d Dept 1993]; Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729 [2d Dept 1986]; Rosenhack v State of New York, 112 Misc 2d 967 [Ct Cl 1982]). To meet the burden of establishing that the proposed claim has sufficient merit, claimant need only show that it is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective, and that 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 [Ct Cl 1977]).

Correction Law § 113 provides in pertinent part that "[t]he commissioner of correctional services may permit any inmate confined by the department... to attend the funeral of his... father, mother, guardian or former guardian, child, brother, sister, husband, wife, grandparent, grandchild, ancestral uncle or ancestral aunt within the state...subject to such rules and regulations as the commissioner of correctional services shall prescribe, respecting the granting of such permission, duration of absence from the institution, custody, transportation and care of inmate, and guarding against escape."

As indicated by use of the permissive “may” in the statute, an inmate’s ability to participate in temporary release or visitation programs is a privilege, not a right (Matter of Doe v Coughlin, 71 NY2d 48 [1987], rearg denied 70 NY2d 1002, cert denied 488 US 879). Consequently, ruling on an inmate’s application to make a funeral visit is one of those discretionary functions for which Defendant possesses a qualified immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 216 [1988]) and a refusal to grant permission cannot give rise to a viable cause of action (see Rivera v State of New York, 169 AD2d 885 [3d Dept 1991]).

Because Movant’s proposed claim lacks legal merit, his application to late file must be DENIED.

March 21, 2006
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims