New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RICHARDSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-031-090, , Motion No. M-71717


Synopsis


Among other factors, late claim application alleging violation of Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6) fails to demonstrate merit. Motion denied

Case Information

UID:
2006-031-090
Claimant(s):
AVON RICHARDSON
1 1.The caption has been amended sua sponte to reflect the only proper Defendant.
Claimant short name:
RICHARDSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended sua sponte to reflect the only proper Defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):

Motion number(s):
M-71717
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant’s attorney:
THE BARNES FIRM. P. C.BY: SCOTT K. ROHRING, ESQ.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
New York State Attorney General
BY: JAMES L. GELORMINI, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 29, 2006
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision

The following papers, numbered 1 to 7, were read on motion by Claimant for permission to file a late claim:
1. Claimant’s Notice of Motion, filed May 8, 2006;
2. Affirmation (denominated “Affidavit”) of Scott K. Rohring, Esq., dated May 8, 2006, with attached exhibits;
3. Affidavit of Avon Richardson, sworn to June 24, 2005;
4. Affirmation of James L. Gelormini, Esq., dated July 28, 2006, with attached exhibits;
5. Affidavit of Roy Doane, sworn to July 27, 2006, with attached exhibit;
6. Affidavit of Mary Kuhn, sworn to July 27, 2006;
7. Defendant’s memorandum of law, dated July 28, 2006. This is the motion of Avon Richardson for permission to file a late claim pursuant to § 10(6) of the Court of Claims Act (“CCA”). In his proposed claim, Mr. Richardson alleges that he was injured on May 10, 2004 while disassembling a grandstand section which had been used for graduation ceremonies at the State University of New York at Geneseo. At the time of the incident, Claimant was employed by Labor Ready, an employment agency, and assigned to work for Mountain Productions, Inc., a contractor for the State. According to Claimant, he was injured when a section of the grandstand, which was being lifted by a fork lift truck, fell off the fork lift truck and struck Claimant in the head. In his proposed claim, Mr. Richardson alleges that Defendant is liable for his injuries pursuant to Labor Law §§ 240(1) and 241(6). With regard to the proposed § 241(6) cause of action, Claimant asserts that this cause of action is based upon violations of various subparts of 12 NYCRR § 23-6.1.

Subdivision 6 of § 10 of the CCA enumerates six factors to be weighed in connection with a late claim motion: (1) whether the delay was excusable; (2) whether Claimant has any other remedy; (3) whether Defendant had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; (4) whether Defendant had an opportunity to investigate; (5) whether Defendant would be substantially prejudiced; and (6) whether the claim appears to be meritorious. This list is not exhaustive and the presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive. Rather, the Court in its discretion balances these factors in making its determination (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees’ Retirement Sys. Policemen’s & Firemen’s Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979).

Claimant alleges that he did not file a claim earlier due to the law office failure of his previous attorneys. However, such an excuse is not legally acceptable (see Bommarito v State of New York, 35 AD2d 458; Plate v State of New York, 92 Misc 2d 1033). I find that this factor weighs in Defendant’s favor.

Regarding the factor relating to alternative remedies, I note that Claimant has commenced an action in Supreme Court against Mountain Productions, Inc., and that the right to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits can serve as an available remedy (Nicometti v State of New York, 144 AD2d 1036, lv denied 73 NY2d 710), even though it may be a partial remedy (Matter of Garguiolo v New York State Thruway Authority, 145 AD2d 915). This factor, too, weighs in Defendant’s favor.

The next three factors covering notice, opportunity to investigate and prejudice are closely related and may be considered together (Brewer v State of New York, 176 Misc 2d 337, 342). Claimant asserts that these factors weigh in his favor because he was working on a State project at the time of the incident, and because he filed an accident report at the time of the incident. Claimant, therefore, asserts that Defendant had all necessary information to conduct a timely investigation and has not been prejudiced by the delay.

The Defendant, however, argues that it had no notice of the incident until this motion was filed approximately two years after the incident. Defendant further asserts that there were no witnesses to the accident and that any investigation at this point would be meaningless. Defendant does admit that Claimant filed an accident report on the date of his injury. However, that report neither indicates anything that would put Defendant on notice of a potential claim, or even that Claimant was injured by a falling object. The report merely indicates that Claimant was injured “working on the metal scaffolding.” I find that each of these three factors weighs in Defendant’s favor.

The final factor to be considered is merit. Of the six enumerated factors in CCA § 10(6), it is the appearance of merit that is most significant. It would be pointless to grant permission to file late if the proposed claim did not have at least the appearance of merit (see e.g. Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729). Generally, a proposed claim meets the appearance of merit standard if it passes a two-fold test. It must not be patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective and, upon consideration of the entire record, there must be reasonable cause to believe a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1).

To have a valid claim under § 241(6), the claimant must cite specific regulations which set forth specific safety standards to be complied with, as opposed to more generic regulations which merely restate general safety standards. Claimant must also demonstrate that the violation was the proximate cause of his injury (Ross v Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co., 81 NY2d 494, at 505). The proposed claim alleges violations of various subparts of 12 NYCRR § 23-6.1. Although 12 NYCRR § 23-6.1 does provide specific regulations relating to material hoisting equipment, Defendant has correctly pointed out that this regulation specifically excludes “fork lift trucks” from its provisions. Claimant has, therefore, failed to demonstrate a violation of an underlying regulation which would support a cause of action under Labor Law § 241(6). For this reason, I find that the proposed cause of action pursuant to Labor Law § 241(6) lacks merit.

With regard to his proposed Labor Law § 240(1) cause of action, Claimant maintains that he was injured by a falling object that was improperly secured. Defendant, however, argues that although gravity played a role in Claimant’s injury, it is not the type of activity that is covered by Labor Law § 240(1). I agree.

In Malecki v Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (222 AD2d 1010), the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, addressed a situation similar to the one at hand. The plaintiff in Malecki had been injured when a bundle of steel that was being lifted by a fork lift truck fell and landed on his foot. The Court determined that the incident was not caused by the “extraordinary elevation risks” addressed by Labor Law § 240(1), but rather “the usual and ordinary dangers of a construction site” (Malecki, at 1010, citing Rodriguez v Tietz Ctr. for Nursing Care, 84 NY2d 841, 843). Similarly in Ruiz v 8600 Roll Road, Inc. (190 AD2d 1030), the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, determined that no action based upon a violation of Labor Law § 240(1) could be maintained by a plaintiff who was killed when a steel beam being hoisted by a crane slipped and struck plaintiff on the head. The Court reasoned that § 240(1) did not apply because the injuries “were not the result of a fall from an elevated work site or from an object falling from an elevated work surface . . . ” (Ruiz at 1031). Accordingly, I find that Claimant has failed to demonstrate the merit of his proposed Labor Law § 240(1) cause of action.

Upon reviewing and balancing all of the factors enumerated in CCA § 10(6), I find that each factor weighs in Defendant’s favor.

Based upon the foregoing, it is

ORDERED, that Claimant’s motion for permission to file a late Claim is denied.


December 29, 2006
Rochester, New York

HON. RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Judge of the Court of Claims