New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

REYNOLDS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-028-564, Claim No. 111088, Motion No. M-71284


Synopsis


A claim alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is dismissed because the inmate claimant has been compensated for any economic loss, the ADA does not create a private right of action for money damages, and

Case Information

UID:
2006-028-564
Claimant(s):
ROY REYNOLDS
Claimant short name:
REYNOLDS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111088
Motion number(s):
M-71284
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RICHARD E. SISE
Claimant’s attorney:
ROY REYNOLDS, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Dennis M. Acton, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 20, 2006
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The following papers were read on Claimant’s motion for summary judgment in his favor:

1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Roy Reynolds, pro se, with annexed Exhibits


2. Affidavit in Opposition of Dennis M. Acton, AAG


Filed papers: Claim; Answer


By this action, Claimant seeks money damages to compensate him for the anxiety, loss of sleep, mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering that resulted, he alleges, from actions of Department of Corrections officials who violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (hereinafter “ADA”). This alleged violation occurred when Claimant was removed from his position as a teacher’s aide in the welding class at Coxsackie Correctional Facility (hereinafter “Coxsackie”). Despite having a physical disability that allowed him to lift no more than ten pounds, Claimant had held this position for over eight months, due in part to his extensive previous experience with welding.[1] During those eight months, he was given two promotions and received a certificate for “outstanding performance” (Reynolds affidavit, ¶ 15, Exhibit “D”).

On April 2, 2004, despite his successful work in the position, Claimant was removed from that job, allegedly because of his disability, and he was replaced by someone who had no previous welding experience. Claimant filed a grievance, which was denied by the Superintendent but, after an appeal was submitted along with input from the Americans with Disability Coordinator, was accepted by Central Office Review Committee (id. Exhibit “F”).

He was reinstated in the teacher’s aide position and given back pay for the time that he had missed. Because there was no other monetary loss, the instant action, as noted, seeks money damages for the emotional injuries that he suffered in connection with these events and for the fact that his ADA rights were violated.

The ADA provides for declarative or injunctive relief but is not designed to serve as the basis for a personal injury action (see 42 USC §§12188[a], 2000a-3[a]); Lugo v St. Nicholas Associates, 18 AD3d 341 [1st Dept 2005]); Murray v State of New York, Ct. Cl, Claim No. 103632, Motion No. M-67346 [December 31, 2003], Hard, J, UID# 2003-032-534). Furthermore, the State’s liability for emotional injury such as anxiety, loss of sleep, mental anguish and (non-physical) pain and suffering is narrowly circumscribed.

It is well-settled that public policy prevents the assertion of a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the State of New York where the complained-of act constitutes official conduct (Brown v State of New York, 125 AD2d 750 [3d Dept 1986]; Wheeler v State of New York, 104 AD2d 496, 498 [2d Dept 1984]; De Lesline v State of New York, 91 AD2d 785, 786 [3d Dept 1982]; Van Buskirk v Bleiler, 46 AD2d 707 [3d Dept 1974]).

Recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress is possible but has been limited to truly exceptional circumstances where the emotional injury is a direct, rather than a consequential, result of an official's negligent act (Kennedy v McKesson Co., 58 NY2d 500, 506 [1983]) or where special circumstances exist that created “an especial likelihood of genuine and serious mental distress, arising from the special circumstances, which serves as a guarantee that the claim is not spurious" (Johnson v State of New York, 37 NY2d 378, 382, quoted in Lauer v City of New York, 95 NY2d 95, 114 [2000]; see also Dobisky v Rand, 248 AD2d 903, 905 [3d Dept 1998] ["A claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress requires a showing that defendants' conduct unreasonably endangered plaintiffs' physical safety or, as exceptions to this rule, that untruthful information regarding death was transmitted or that a corpse was negligently mishandled."]).

In opposition to Claimant’s motion for summary judgment, Defendant has requested that the motion be denied and the Claim dismissed pursuant to CPLR 3212(b), which provides as follows: “If it shall appear that any party other than the moving party is entitled to a summary judgment, the court may grant such judgment without the necessity of a cross-motion.” In light of the outcome of Claimant’s grievance, the Court will assume that he could prove that removing him from his teacher’s aide position was an act in violation of the ADA. Even if that were proven, however, in light of the fact that Claimant has already been reimbursed for any economic loss he suffered, he would, as a matter of law, be unable to establish that he was entitled to money damages either for the ADA violation or for emotional upset that may have been caused by the State’s action. Consequently, since there is no unresolved question of material fact that could potentially lead to a finding of liability, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of Defendant, dismissing the claim.

Claimant’s motion is denied, and pursuant to CPLR 3212(b), the Court directs that Defendant is entitled to judgment in its favor. Claim No. 111088 is dismissed.



July 20, 2006
Albany, New York

HON. RICHARD E. SISE
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. Claimant became a welder in 1981, graduating from a private school and entering the United Association’s Plumber’s & Steamfitters Union, where he served a five year apprenticeship and became a pipewelder and journeyman steamfitter. He holds welding certificates in five states.