New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DAVIS v. THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, #2007-041-028, Claim No. 113505, Motion Nos. M-73392, CM-73550


Synopsis


Claim which fails to state the time when the claim arose and the nature of same is dismissed.

Case Information

UID:
2007-041-028
Claimant(s):
DONNELL E. DAVIS
Claimant short name:
DAVIS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
113505
Motion number(s):
M-73392
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-73550
Judge:
FRANK P. MILANO
Claimant’s attorney:
DONNELL E. DAVISPro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Michael C. Rizzo, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 28, 2007
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision


Claimant moves to strike defendant’s answer and defendant cross-moves to dismiss the claim on the ground that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the claim. The claimant’s motion is denied and the defendant’s cross-motion is granted. The claim is dismissed. Claimant is an inmate at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. The claim essentially alleges that the conditions of his incarceration violate international law and the United States Constitution. Claimant alleges that the administrative policies of the New York State Department of Correctional Services: Permit inmates to purchase only a certain type of television set; deny inmates equal wages for equal work in comparison to non-inmates; limit the amount of property inmates can receive from friends and family; prohibit internet access; and deny the use and ownership of compact disc players. Claimant alleges that these policies result in "brainwashing" and constitute discrimination against minorities.

The claim does not set forth any act or omission of defendant that relates specifically to claimant as opposed to inmates in general nor does the claim state a date or time when the claim arose.

Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) provides that:
"The claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, and the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and the total sum claimed. A claim for the appropriation by the state of lands, or any right, title or interest in or to lands shall include an inventory or itemized statement of fixtures, if any, for which compensation is claimed. The notice of intention to file a claim shall set forth the same matters except that the items of damage or injuries and the sum claimed need not be stated. The claim and notice of intention to file a claim shall be verified in the same manner as a complaint in an action in the supreme court."

In Kolnacki v State of New York (8 NY3d 277 [2007]), the Court of Appeals held that the Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction over a claim which fails to state "the total sum claimed," one of the requirements of section 11 (b). A claim against the State is permissible only as a result of the State’s waiver of sovereign immunity and the statutory requirements conditioning suit must therefore be strictly construed ( Kolnacki, 8 NY3d at 280). The Court noted that the requirements of section 11 (b) are "substantive conditions upon the State’s waiver of sovereign immunity" (citing Lepkowski v State of New York 1 NY3d 201, 207 [2003]) and that the failure to satisfy any of the conditions is a jurisdictional defect (Kolnacki, 8 NY3d at 280-281). The Kolnacki decision stresses that "nothing less than strict compliance with the jurisdictional requirements of the Court of Claims Act is necessary" (Kolnacki, 8 NY3d at 281).

The defendant’s cross-motion alleges that the claim fails to set forth the “total sum claimed” as required by section 11 (b) and must be dismissed pursuant to Kolnacki. The claim does, in fact, state a demand for "Monetary damages in the Amount of $5,000,000.25 for acts and/or omissions of the N.Y.S.D.O.C.S."

Nonetheless, the Court’s review of the claim for the purpose of assessing jurisdictional issues reveals that the claim fails to set forth the time when the claim arose and further fails to adequately set forth the nature of the claim, as the allegations all relate to inmates generally, rather than to the claimant specifically.

Defendant’s cross-motion does not raise the claim’s failure to state the time when the claim arose and the nature of same as a basis for dismissal although its answer states these grounds as defenses. The defendant’s choice not to raise these defects in its cross-motion does not preclude the Court’s consideration of them (see Matter of Fry v Village of Tarrytown, 89 NY2d 714, 718 [1997] in which the court states that “a court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction is not waivable, but ‘may be [raised] at any stage of the action, and the court may, ex mero motu [on its own motion], at any time, when its attention is called to the facts, refuse to proceed further and dismiss the action’ [Robinson v Oceanic Steam Nav. Co., 112 NY 315, 324]”).

Dismissal of the claim is compelled since stating the time when the claim arose, together with stating the nature of the claim, are "substantive conditions upon the State’s waiver of sovereign immunity" (Lepkowski, 1 NY3d at 207) and "failure to satisfy any of the conditions is a jurisdictional defect" (Kolnacki, 8 NY3d at 281).

It should also be noted that claimant essentially challenges the administrative policies of the Department of Correctional Services. The appropriate remedy is not a Court of Claims action for money damages but "a CPLR article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court" (Matter of Rye Psychiatric Hosp. Ctr. v State of New York, 177 AD2d 834, 835 [3d Dept 1991], lv denied 80 NY2d 751 [1992]).

The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction and the powers conferred upon it do not include the authority to provide the type of equitable relief requested by claimant (Madura v State of New York, 12 AD3d 759, 760 [3d Dept 2004], lv denied 4 NY3d 704 [2005]). The jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is invoked where money damages are the essential object of the claim, unlike an instance where the principal claim is equitable in nature (such as a challenge to the administrative policies of a state agency), with monetary relief being incidental to the principal claim (see Harvard Fin. Servs. v State of New York, 266 AD2d 685, 685 [3d Dept 1999]; Matter of Gross v Perales, 72 NY2d 231, 236 [1988]).

Finally, the Court lacks jurisdiction over claimant’s federal constitutional cause of action since "[t]he proper subject of an action pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 is a State official acting in excess of his or her authority and is ‘cognizable in the Supreme Court and not in the Court of Claims’ . . . . The State is not a proper party to such claims because the State is not a ‘person’ within the meaning of 42 USC § 1983" (Cavanaugh v Doherty, 243 AD2d 92, 96-97 [3d Dept 1998] quoting Teddy's Drive In v Cohen, 54 AD2d 898, 900 [2d Dept 1976], affd 47 NY2d 79 [1979]; see Matter of Gable Transp., Inc. v State of New York, 29 AD3d 1125 [3d Dept 2006]; Lyles v State of New York, 2 AD3d 694 [2d Dept 2003], affd 3 NY3d 396 [2004]; Welch v State of New York, 286 AD2d 496, 498 [2d Dept 2001]).

In view of the foregoing, the Court need not consider claimant’s motion to strike defendant’s answer.

For all of the foregoing reasons, the defendant’s cross-motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

June 28, 2007
Albany, New York

HON. FRANK P. MILANO
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of Motion, filed May 4, 2007;
  2. Motion Affidavit of Donnell E. Davis, sworn May 2, 2007, and annexed exhibits;
  3. Affidavit in Support of Donnell E. Davis, sworn May 2, 2007.
  4. Notice of Cross-Motion, filed June 8, 2007;
  5. Affidavit of Michael C. Rizzo, sworn June 8, 2007, and annexed exhibits;
  6. Affirmation in Opposition to Cross-Motion of Donnell E. Davis, sworn to June 13, 2007, and annexed exhibits.