New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FLETCHER v. THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK; DORMITORY AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AND THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-009-004, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-75584


Synopsis


Claimant’s application for permission to serve and file a late claim was denied based upon a lack of jurisdiction, as the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction for claims occurring on the campus of a community college.

Case Information

UID:
2009-009-004
Claimant(s):
BRYAN FLETCHER
Claimant short name:
FLETCHER
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK; DORMITORY AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AND THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
NONE
Motion number(s):
M-75584
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant’s attorney:
BRINDISI, MURAD, BRINDISI, PEARLMAN, JULIAN & PERTZ, LLP
BY: Robert F. Julian, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General
BY: Michael R. O’Neill, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 2, 2009
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant has brought this motion seeking permission to serve and file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10(6).

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affirmation of Robert F. Julian, Esq., with Exhibits 1,2


Affidavit of Bryan Fletcher, with Exhibit 3

Affidavit of Richard O’Brien, D.O., with Exhibits 4


Affidavit of Carl J. Thurnau, PE, with Exhibit 5


Memorandum of Law 6


Affirmation in Opposition, Memorandum of Law 7,8


Affidavit(Reply) of Robert F. Julian, Esq., with Exhibits 9

In his proposed claim (Exhibit A to Item 3), claimant alleges that he suffered personal injuries when he fell from the top bunk bed in a dormitory at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, New York, on September 9, 2007, and that the named defendants were negligent in failing to provide him with a safe and proper living facility.

Pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10(6), a claimant who fails to timely file and serve a claim may make application to serve and file a late claim, provided that the application is made within such time as prescribed by the Civil Practice Law and Rules for the bringing of an action against a private citizen. In determining such an application, the Court is required to consider, among other matters, six specific factors set forth in § 10(6).

Before considering these factors in this case, however, the Court will consider defendant’s contention that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this claim.

The subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is limited to the State of New York and certain public authorities that are sued in their own name (Easley v New York State Thruway Auth., 1 NY2d 374). For example, when the alleged wrongdoer is a State department or agency, the proper party defendant is “the State of New York” only, and not that department or agency. Accordingly, and as pertinent to the application herein, even though this Court often hears claims originating on various campuses of the State University of New York, the proper party defendant in such cases is the “State of New York”.

As stated above, the Court of Claims also has jurisdiction over certain other entities, such as the New York State Thruway Authority (Public Auth. Law § 361-b), the City University of New York (Education Law § 6224[4]), and the New York State Power Authority (Public Auth. Law § 1007[10]).

In this application, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York has been listed as a defendant in the proposed claim. The enabling legislation for the Dormitory Authority, however, makes reference to the notice of claim procedure set forth in General Municipal Law § 50-e (Public Authorities Law § 1691). By implication, this reference places jurisdiction over the Dormitory Authority in the Supreme Court, and not in the Court of Claims.

As a result, with respect to the instant motion, the only proper defendant is the State of New York, and not the State University of New York (SUNY) or the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.

Also, as set forth in the proposed claim, the incident forming the basis of this potential claim occurred at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York. Claimant contends that Onondaga Community College is part of the SUNY system, and therefore is subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.

The State University of New York is a corporation created within the New York State Education Department (Education Law § 352[1]; § 101). However, community colleges, such as Onondaga Community College are organized pursuant to §§ 6301(2) and (3) and 6302 of the Education Law. Community colleges are established and operated under local sponsorship (Education Law §§ 6301[3], 6302, 6304 and 6306). They are not part of the SUNY corporation (Education Law § 352[3]) and are not State agencies (Brown v North Country Community College, 63 Misc 2d 442). Rather, the local sponsor of the community college is the real party in interest (Solomon v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 15, 2002, Patti, J., Claim No. 105328, Motion No. M-64643, UID # 2002-013-020).[1] As a result, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear claims against Onondaga Community College or its local sponsor (Court of Claims Act § 9).[2]

In his reply affidavit, however, claimant’s attorney submits various documents from both the SUNY website and the Onondaga Community College website, indicating that Onondaga Community College is part of the SUNY school system. While the Court is of the opinion that these representations certainly are misleading, they nevertheless are legally insufficient to confirm subject matter jurisdiction upon this Court without specific legislative action.

Based on the foregoing analysis, therefore, it is the determination of this Court that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the potential claim asserted by the claimant. It would therefore be futile to permit the late filing of this claim without such subject matter jurisdiction, as well as being misleading and potentially prejudicial to the claimant. Any further consideration of the six statutory factors of § 10(6) is clearly not warranted under these circumstances.

Therefore, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-75584, seeking permission to serve and file a late claim, is hereby DENIED.


March 2, 2009
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. Unpublished decisions and selected orders of the Court of Claims are available via the Internet at http://www.nyscourtofclaims.state.ny.us/decisions.
[2]. As set forth in Exhibit A to Defendant’s Affirmation in Opposition (Item 7), it appears that the County of Onondaga is the local sponsor for Onondaga Community College, and that an entity titled “Onondaga Community College Housing Development Corporation” does exist.