New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SCORZELLO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-041-023, Claim No. 115254, Motion No. M-75073


Court lacks jurisdiction over claim which fails to adequately state the nature of the claim, as required by Court of Claims Act § 11 (b).

Case Information

1 1.The caption is amended to reflect the only proper defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption is amended to reflect the only proper defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Paul F. Cagino, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 14, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant moves to dismiss the action on the basis that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the claim. Defendant argues that the claim fails to provide sufficient particularity “to give the court and parties notice of the transactions [and] occurrences . . . intended to be proven and the material elements of each cause of action,” as required by CPLR § 3013, and fails to set forth the nature of the claim as required by Court of Claims Act § 11 (b), thus depriving the Court of jurisdiction. 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. . . .”
The claim alleges that claimant was injured on February 23, 2008, at 1:56 p.m., at the State University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York, “inside the State Quad Dormitory between Cooper Hall and Anthony Hall.” The claim further alleges that claimant suffered a broken front tooth as a result of the incident. With respect to the “nature of same,” the claim states as follows:
“Personal injury sustained by Patricia Scorzello, claimant. Due to the negligence of the State of New York University at Albany in that the claimant was struck in the face and mouth by a defective door while walking through the hallway of the University at Albany dormitory. The State University at Albany was negligent in the ownership, maintenance and control of this door creating an unsafe and hazardous condition to exist, without any warning signs. By allowing this condition to exist actually or constructively caused the injuries to occur.”
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 v State of New York 8 NY3d 277, 280 [2007]). The Kolnacki court noted that the requirements of section 11 (b) are “substantive conditions upon the State's waiver of sovereign immunity” (quoting 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 strict pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) were recently reiterated in Rivera v State of New York (2008 NY Slip Op 05609 [3d Dept 2008]):
“Statutory conditions placed on claims against defendant must be strictly construed, mandating a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction if the claim does not meet the substantive pleading requirements found in Court of Claims Act § 11 (b).”
The Rivera court, quoting Lepkowski (1 NY3d at 208) reminded that:
“The Court of Claims Act does not require [defendant] to ferret out or assemble information that section 11 (b) obligates the claimant to allege.”
The standard of review in assessing whether a claim complies with section 11 (b) as to adequately stating the nature of the claim is well-settled:
“What is required is not absolute exactness, but simply a statement made with sufficient definiteness to enable the State to be able to investigate the claim promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances. The statement must be specific enough so as not to mislead, deceive or prejudice the rights of the State. In short, substantial compliance with section 11 is what is required . . . . Conclusory or general allegations of negligence that fail to adduce the manner in which the claimant was injured and how the State was negligent do not meet its requirements” (Heisler v State of State of New York, 78 AD2d 767, 768 [4th Dept 1980]; see Cendales v State of New York, 2 AD3d 1165, 1167 [3d Dept 2003]; Sega v State of New York, 246 AD2d 753, 755 [3d Dept 1998], lv denied 92 NY2d 805 [1998]).
The instant claim fails to state how claimant came to be “struck in the face and mouth by a defective door,” fails to state what was “defective” about the door and fails to state in what manner the defendant was “negligent.” Claimant has failed to comply with the substantive pleading requirements of section 11 (b) and the Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over the claim.

The claim’s deficiencies are similar to those found in Grumet v State of New York (256 AD2d 441, 442 [2d Dept 1998]), in which the court considered the sufficiency under section 11 (b) of both a notice of intention to file a claim and a claim:
“[T]he notice of intention to file a claim only stated that the claimant slipped and fell without any indication as to what allegedly caused him to slip and fall. The claim merely alleged that the State was ‘careless, reckless and negligent’. There was nothing in the language of either the notice of intention to file a claim or the claim which would have alerted the defendants as to the nature of the alleged negligence. Accordingly, the Court of Claims properly granted the motion to dismiss.”
The claimant’s belated disclosure in her unsworn opposition to the defendant’s motion to dismiss as to how the accident happened and why the defendant was negligent is unavailing as the Court’s lack of jurisdiction over the claim, as filed and served, may not be cured by amendment (Manshul Constr. Corp. v State Ins. Fund, 118 AD2d 983 [3d Dept 1986]; Roberts v State of New York, 4 Misc 3d 768 [Ct Cl 2004]).

The defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim is granted.

The claimant may have a potential remedy available pursuant to CPLR § 205 (a), which permits recommencement of a dismissed action under certain circumstances, or Court of Claims Act § 10 (6), which provides that the Court, upon application and in its discretion, may permit the late filing and service of a 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.”

July 14, 2008
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Defendant’s Notice of Motion to Dismiss, filed June 9, 2008;
  2. Affirmation of Paul F. Cagino, dated June 6, 2008;
  3. Statement of Patricia Scorzello, dated June 25, 2008, with attachments;
  4. Claim, filed May 15, 2008.