New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MUSGROVE v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-037-062, Claim No. 113611, Motion No. M-73481


This Court does not have jurisdiction over claim against Erie Community College and the doctrine of equitable estoppel is not applicable against the State under the circumstances presented herein to create jurisdiction.

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:
Hagelin Kent LLCBy: Leo T. Fabrizi, Esq.
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
New York State Attorney General
By: Gregory P. Miller, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
February 1, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following were read and considered with respect to Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim:
1. Notice of motion and supporting affidavit of Gregory P. Miller sworn to May 23,

2007, with annexed Exhibit A;

2. Answering affidavit of Leo T. Fabrizi, Esq. sworn to December 5, 2007, with

annexed Exhibits A-C.

Filed papers: Claim filed April 23, 2007.

This is an action for personal injuries arising out of an incident which occurred on January 23, 2007 when the Claimant allegedly slipped and fell on a stairway located outside the entrance to Building B on the North Campus of Erie Community College (ECC). In lieu of answering the claim, Defendant moved to dismiss the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Community colleges, such as ECC, are organized pursuant to §§ 6301 (2) and (3) and 6302 of the Education Law of the State of New York. They are not part of the State University of New York (SUNY) corporation, a corporation created in the New York State Education Department (see Education Law, § 352 [3]; Lombardi v State of New York, Ct Cl, June 4, 2003, Ruderman, J., claim no. 107575, motion no. M-66700, UID # 2003-010-016),[1] and are not State agencies (Brown v North County Community College, 63 Misc 2d 442 [1970]). Rather, community colleges are established and operated under local sponsorship (Education Law, §§ 6301 (3), 6302, 6304 and 6306). Erie County is the local sponsor of ECC (see Matter of McDonough v Erie County, 207 AD2d 987 [1994]), and it is Erie County that is under a statutory obligation to indemnify ECC’s board of trustees if the board is found liable in actions brought against them (Education Law § 6308). The local sponsor is, therefore, the real party in interest and all pleading requirements applicable to actions against the local sponsor must be met (Solomon v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 15, 2002, Patti, J., claim no. 105328, motion no. M-64643, UID # 2002-013-020). Accordingly, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction as neither the State of New York nor the State University of New York is a proper party Defendant, and as this Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear claims against ECC or its local sponsor, Erie County (see § 9 of the Court of Claims Act; Muro v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 18, 2006, Ruderman, J., claim no. 111927, motion no. M-71531; UID # 2006-010-011).

Claimant argues that the State of New York should be equitably estopped from disclaiming subject matter jurisdiction because representations on the ECC and SUNY web sites indicate that ECC is part of the SUNY system, and that jurisdiction would be proper in the Court of Claims. Generally, a court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction may not be waived or created by estoppel or laches (see Matter of E.F.S. Ventures Corp. v Foster, 71 NY2d 359 [1988]; Casella v Crosson, 178 AD2d 963 [1991]; Cendales v State of New York, 2 AD3d 1165 [2003]). In certain rare and exceptional circumstances, some courts have applied the estoppel doctrine against the State. Estoppel is not, however, applicable in the circumstances presented herein (see generally Casella v Crosson, 178 AD2d at 964-965).

The doctrine of equitable estoppel:
“prevents a party from pleading or proving an otherwise important fact because of something which it has done or omitted to do. If another rightfully relies upon its word or deed and, as a result, changes position to his injury, so that it would be inequitable to permit the party to enforce rights inconsistent therewith, the courts will estop the party from taking the inconsistent position.”
Matter of E.F.S. Ventures Corp. v Foster
, supra at 368-369.

None of the essential elements of an estoppel are present herein. First, contrary to Claimant’s assertion, there is nothing in ECC’s or SUNY’s web sites or in any other document or pamphlet attached to Claimant’s motion papers indicating that ECC or its sponsor Erie County may be sued in the Court of Claims or that the State is somehow responsible for any alleged negligence on the part of employees of ECC. In fact, pursuant to Education Law § 6308 (3), Erie County as ECC’s local sponsor “shall indemnify and save harmless” employees of ECC. Moreover, Claimant did not rely to her detriment or change her position based on anything done or not done by the State of New York. According to the answering affidavit of Claimant’s counsel, Claimant commenced a similar action against ECC and Erie County in State Supreme Court. Because Claimant has failed to demonstrate the existence of any exceptional circumstances to justify applying the doctrine of estoppel and because there is no proof of a detrimental change of position, estoppel is not applicable against the State of New York (see Klopfle v New York State Thruway Authority, 177 AD2d 1059 [1991]; Matter of Casella v Crosson, supra). Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED, that Defendant’s motion no. M-73481 is granted and claim no. 113611 is dismissed.

February 1, 2008
Buffalo, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. This and other unreported decisions may be found on the Court of Claims web site at