New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims



State's motion for summary judgment granted in claim against the State for damages flowing from arrest due to erroneously suspended driver's license. License remained suspended because Town Court employees failed to notify DMV that the fine had been paid. Claimant did not demonstrate any legal duty on the part of DMV to reach out to the Town to determine status of traffic infraction, and no negligence on the part of the DMV was demonstrated.

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:
ANDREW M. CUOMO, Attorney General of the State of New York
Paul F. Cagino, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 20, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant seeks damages from defendant State of New York for injuries allegedly sustained when he was arrested and incarcerated by the New York City Police Department (hereinafter “NYPD”) for operating a motor vehicle while his license was suspended. The claim alleges that defendant is liable for these damages because the Department of Motor Vehicles (hereinafter “DMV”) did not remove the suspension of his driver’s license after he resolved the underlying traffic ticket. Defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing the claim on the ground that defendant is not liable as a matter of law because the Town of Hyde Park Town Court failed to timely notify the DMV that claimant had resolved the matter that had caused the suspension of his license. Claimant opposes the motion.

A movant for summary judgment must establish, by proof in admissible form, the right to judgment as a matter of law (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]; Friends of Animals v Associated Fur Mfrs., 46 NY2d 1065, 1067 [1979]). If the movant establishes prima facie entitlement to summary judgment, the burden then shifts to the opponent of the motion to establish, by admissible proof, the existence of genuine issues of material fact (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., supra; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]).

It is well-established that the State may be held liable for the negligence of non-judicial state employees in the performance of their ministerial duties (see Schwandt v State of New York, 4 Misc 3d 405, 410 [Ct Cl 2004] [Troy City Court employees failed to recall warrant, resulting in subsequent arrest]; Ostrowski v State of New York, 186 Misc2d 890, 895 [Ct Cl 2001] [Rochester City Court employees failed to note payment of fine, resulting in subsequent arrest]). However, a town justice and the employees of a town court are not officers and employees of the State, but of the town (see Cunningham v Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 125 AD2d 950 [4th Dept 1986]; Roth v State of New York, UID #2003-030-530, Claim No. 107198, Motion No. M-66392, Scuccimarra, J. [Apr. 4, 2003]; Town Law § 20 [1] [a]; § 20 [1] [b]; Judiciary Law § 39 [1]; § 39 [6]).

Defendant’s submission establishes the following facts, which are not disputed by claimant. On August 14, 2004, claimant received a summons for speeding in the Town of Hyde Park, New York (Cagino Affirmation, Exhibit A). Claimant did not answer the summons (Stokes Affidavit, ¶7), and on April 26, 2006, the Hyde Park Town Court notified the DMV that claimant’s driver’s license should be suspended (Martin Affidavit, ¶3). On May 11, 2006 claimant paid the fine and fees, thereby disposing of the traffic ticket (Cagino Affirmation, Exhibit B, Exhibit G, sub E). However, the Town of Hyde Park Court did not then inform the DMV that the matter was disposed of, or that the suspension of claimant’s license should be lifted (Stokes Affidavit, ¶ 9). On October 28, 2006, claimant was stopped by the NYPD while operating a vehicle, and arrested for driving with a suspended license (Cagino Affirmation, Exhibit D; Exhibit G, sub D). Two days later, on October 30, 2006, the DMV was notified by the Town of Hyde Park Town Court that claimant had indeed resolved the traffic ticket (Martin Affidavit, ¶ 5). The evidence submitted by defendant demonstrates that the erroneous continuation of the suspension of claimant’s license was due to the failure of employees of the Town of Hyde Park – and not the State – to perform the ministerial duty of notifying the DMV that the fine had been paid, and thus, defendant has established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.

Claimant does not dispute any of these facts,[1] but contends that he “should be allowed to conduct depositions of responsible DMV officials, identified by the State in discovery, in order to ascertain facts concerning its practices, error rate and knowledge of likely consequences of failures to notify under its current system of waiting for clerical personal in municipalities to make timely notifications” (Koshetz Affirmation, ¶ 11). The fatal flaw in this argument is that it has no basis in law – claimant cites no statutory, regulatory, decisional or other authority that imposes on the DMV an obligation to determine that a fine has been paid before disseminating information about a scofflaw suspension that has been imposed. Indeed, claimant’s implicit recognition of this flaw is evident by comparison of the instant claim he has filed against the State (Cagino Affirmation, Exhibit C) and the claim he has asserted against the Town of Hyde Park (Cagino Affirmation, Exhibit G, sub A). In the latter, claimant alleges that his injuries were sustained “[a]s a result of the negligent failure of the Town of Hyde Park’s Justice Court to transmit the payment information to the state,” while in the instant claim, he cursorily alleges that he was injured “[a]s a result of DMV’s negligence” (Cagino Affirmation, Exhibit C). Moreover, claimant has not submitted any evidence that would demonstrate the existence of any genuine issue of material fact.

Defendant has established that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and claimant has not demonstrated a legal basis for defendant’s liability, nor has he raised a genuine issue of material fact requiring a trial of the claim. Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that defendant’s motion No. M-73602 for summary judgment is GRANTED, and claim #113171 is dismissed.

September 20, 2007
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers considered

(1) Notice of Motion to Dismiss, dated June 20, 2007;

(2) Affirmation of Paul F. Cagino, AAG, dated June 20, 2007, with exhibits A-G, including the

Affidavit of Sean J. Martin, Esq., sworn to June 14, 2007 and the

Affidavit of Tesa Stokes, sworn to May 31, 2007;

(3) Affirmation in Opposition of Rae Downes Koshetz, Esq., dated July 15, 2007.

[1]. Claimant’s counsel contends in her affirmation that the summons was adjudicated before defendant suspended claimant’s license, and that “[h]ad a DMV clerk checked with Hyde Park by simple telephone or e-mail correspondence before the suspension” the events complained of would not have occurred. This argument is invalid because it is based upon factual inaccuracy – defendant’s submission demonstrates that claimant’s license was suspended in April 2006, and that he subsequently paid his fine and fees in May 2006.