The following papers were read and considered by the Court on this Motion:
Claimant’s Notice of Motion, Claimant’s Affidavit in Support with
annexed Exhibits A - B, Defendant’s Affirmation in Opposition with annexed
Exhibits A- B and the filed Claim.
Claimant, Edwin Lamage, a pro se inmate, has brought this motion seeking
leave to amend his claim pursuant to CPLR 3025 (b) to include a new, entirely
unrelated claim to his previously filed claim. On June 20, 2007, claimant filed
his original claim alleging that between December 16, 2006 through March 26,
2007, defendant, the State of New York, through its agents, wrongfully confined
him in keeplock at the Southport Correctional Facility. Claimant is seeking
monetary damages in the amount of three thousand and thirty dollars based on
thirty dollars a day for the one hundred and one days he was wrongfully
confined. Claimant alleges in his proposed amended claim that from November 18,
2007 through November 25, 2007 defendant failed to replace the inoperative light
bulbs in his cell at the Elmira Correctional Facility. He contends that since he
was without any light for that time period he was subjected to mental anguish
and suffered an injury to his eyes.
CPLR 3025 (b) provides that “a party may amend his pleading, or
supplement it by setting forth additional or subsequent transactions or
occurrences, at any time by leave of court or by stipulation of the parties.
Leave shall be freely given upon such terms as may be just including the
granting of costs and continuances.” Courts are vested with broad
discretion in determining whether to grant or deny leave to amend,
“provided there is no prejudice to the nonmoving party and the amendment
is not plainly lacking in merit” (Matter of Miller v Goord, 1AD3d
647, 648 [3d Dept 2003]).
Defendant argues that the motion should be denied because it is prejudiced by
the amended claim which seeks to add completely unrelated allegations that
occurred months after those contained in the original claim. Defendant also
argues that the proposed amendment is without merit as it does not appear to
contain a cognizable cause of action.
In this case, the requested amendment sets forth a new claim entirely unrelated
to the claims asserted in the original claim. The original claim, which accrued
in March 2007, is for false imprisonment as a result of an alleged improper
misbehavior report and an unfair disciplinary procedure. The allegations in the
amended claim accrued in November 2007 at a different facility and concern the
failure to properly maintain the light bulbs in claimant’s cell.
It is a proper exercise of discretion to deny leave to amend a claim where the
proposed cause of action would “impermissibly expand the scope of the
original proceeding” (Matter of Miller, supra, at 648; see also
Thibeault v Palma, 266 AD2d 616 [3d Dept 1999]; Green v Irwin, 174
AD2d 879 [3d Dept 1991]). In the instant case, the amended claim contains
allegations which are not an expansion of those contained within the original
claim but instead are entirely distinct claims which are based on an entirely
separate set of facts. The allegations in the original and amended claims
differ in that they occurred at two different correctional facilities, nine
months apart and raise different theories of liability. The claims are not
similar in nature, will have no overlapping discovery and will involve none of
the same witnesses.
Thus, the Court finds that the amended claim would impermissibly expand the
scope of the proceeding.
In addition, the Court of Claims Act sets forth specific requirements which
must be strictly adhered to before this Court acquires jurisdiction over a new
claim (CCA §§ 10, 11). The Court of Appeals has long held that
“[b]ecause suits against the State are allowed only by the State’s
waiver of sovereign immunity and in derogation of the common law statutory
requirements conditioning suit must be strictly construed” (Dreger v
New York State Thruway Authority, 81 NY2d 721, 724 ). Accordingly, it
is not permissible for claimant to amend his claim to assert entirely new
unrelated claims since, in effect, those new claims would have circumvented the
requirements and purpose of the Court of Claims Act.
The Court notes that claimant is not without a remedy with respect to his
proposed cause of action, as he may be within the time frame to submit a motion
for permission to file and serve a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act
Therefore, based upon the forgoing reasons, claimant’s motion for leave
to amend his claim is denied.