New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MARTINEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-028-506, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-72484


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:
BY: Paul F. Cagino, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
January 8, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read on movant’s application to file a late claim pursuant Court of Claims Act § 10 (6):

1. Notice of Motion and Supporting “Affidavit” of Evelyn Martinez, pro se with annexed Exhibits; and

2. Affirmation in Opposition of Paul F. Cagino, Esq., AAG;

Evelyn Martinez (movant) brings this application for permission to file a late claim alleging that she was damaged by defendant, State of New York, (acting through the Department of Motor Vehicles [DMV]) because, as far as the Court can discern, a driver’s license suspension premised upon an unsatisfied traffic ticket from August 1997 did not “come up” until October 2004. A review of the annexed proposed claim reveals that movant avers that the suspension was never put into effect until October 2004 notwithstanding its 1997-1998 origin as explained in a letter to movant from the DMV (annexed exhibit). Movant explains that this must be the case since the suspension never came up while she was renewing licenses in Maryland and Florida between 1999 and 2000. She also explains it never came up during other traffic stops or when she was briefly detained at the Canadian border by United States Customs officials. This, she argues, “prejudiced [her] as the State cannot select when it wants to apply punishment and when to persecute citizens” (“Affidavit” of Evelyn Martinez).

Defendant opposes the motion arguing that per movant’s own moving papers, “she fails to state a cause of action and fails to show a meritorious claim” (Affirmation in Opposition of Paul F. Cagino, ¶ 3).

This Court, in its discretion, can authorize the filing of a late claim “at any time before an action asserting a like claim against a citizen of the state would be barred under the provisions of article two of the civil practice law and rules” (Court of Claims Act § 10 [6]). In order to determine whether to grant an application for permission to file a late claim, the Court must consider, among any other relevant factors, the six statutory factors set forth in Court of Claims Act §10(6): (1) whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable; (2) whether the State had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; (3) whether the State had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; (4) whether the claim appears to be meritorious; (5) whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or serve a timely notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the State; and (6) whether the claimant has another available remedy. The Court in the exercise of its discretion balances these factors.

While the presence or absence of any one factor is not dispositive (see Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees’ Retirement Sys. Policemen’s and Firemen’s Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979 [1982]), the most critical factor is the apparent merit of the proposed claim (see Plate v State of New York, 92 Misc 2d 1033 [1978]). A movant need only establish that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective and that there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (see Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1 [1977]). If a movant cannot meet this low threshold and the claim is patently without merit, it would be meaningless for the Court to grant the application even if all the other factors in Court of Claims Act §10 (6) weighed in favor of movant’s request (see Savino v State of New York, 199 AD2d 254 [2d Dept 1993]; Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729 [2d Dept 1986]).

Here, reading movant’s papers broadly, the allegation underlying the application seems to be that because the suspension never came up before October 2004 despite renewing her out-of- state licenses and being pulled over on separate occasions while the 1997 traffic ticket was still outstanding, her license could not have been suspended. Even if the Court, for the sake of argument, accepted that her license was indeed not suspended until 2004 (and the DMV information included in the motion suggests otherwise), a cause of action for negligence has not been stated. Movant has not demonstrated a breach of any duty owed to her by defendant and, further, no discernable damages traceable to any misconduct on the part of defendant.

The Court notes that movant does not argue that the 1997 ticket was satisfied or that there was no legitimate basis underlying the suspension. She simply alleges, so it seems, that the DMV should have placed the suspension on her license sooner and that the delay somehow prejudiced her. The Court cannot find a cause of action premised upon the stated allegations.

Reviewing the motion in its entirety, it simply appears that movant was the recipient of a series of lucky breaks during the times she was stopped for violations and not discovered to have a suspended license. When she was arrested for the suspended license in October 2004, movant’s own papers reveal that there was a valid basis for the suspension, namely the unsatisfied 1997 traffic conviction. Whether the suspension was in effect from July 1998 (which the DMV explains) or not is immaterial. In this Court’s view, movant’s papers do not set forth sufficient facts to allow it to reasonably believe that a valid cause of action exists against defendant (see Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., supra). Accordingly, movant’s application for permission to file a late claim is denied.

January 8, 2008
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims