New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ROMERO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-120, Claim No. 114493, Motion No. M-75736


Synopsis


Claimant's motion for a stay of the Court of Claims claim was granted pending resolution of his action in federal court.

Case Information

UID:
2009-015-120
Claimant(s):
WALTER ROMERO
Claimant short name:
ROMERO
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
114493
Motion number(s):
M-75736
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Rothstein Law PLLCBy: Eric E. Rothstein, Esquire
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Saul Aronson, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
January 16, 2009
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant moves for a stay of the instant action pursuant to CPLR 2201 pending the resolution of a related federal court action or, in the alternative, for an Order compelling the defendant to take the claimant's deposition in its New York County office at the same time it takes his deposition in the federal action or, in the alternative, compelling the defendant to take the claimant's deposition at its New York County office, and granting a protective order precluding the defendant from taking the claimant's deposition while the instant motion is pending. Claimant alleges that the Department of Correctional Services knowingly confined him to prison for 31 days beyond his maximum release date and seeks damages for "unlawful imprisonment, malicious prosecution, over-detention, wrongful detention, illegal detention, assault, battery, intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress, deliberate indifference to claimant's rights and to his protestations concerning the expiration of his maximum release date, and violations of his civil rights, all without remorse or regret, and with total disregard for the Claimant, and his constitutional and legal rights" (claimant's Exhibit D, ¶ 4).

Based upon these same set of facts, the claimant also commenced an action in the federal court against the City of New York and individuals employed by the City and the State of New York. With respect to the individually named State employees, the federal complaint alleges civil rights causes of action pursuant to 42 USC §§ 1983, 1985 and 1988, common law causes of action for assault, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference.

In support of the motion, claimant's counsel avers that although the federal action was commenced a short time after the instant action, both cases are in the early stages of discovery and depositions have not been held in either case. He contends that the underlying facts in both matters are the same and "[a]ll but one of the individual defendants in the federal court case are State employees who are entitled to defense and indemnification from the State." Claimant argues that a stay of the instant action is warranted because a resolution of the matter in the Court of Claims will not obviate the need for a trial against the City of New York and its individually named employee in the federal forum. "Conversely, should claimant prevail against the State defendants in the federal court case that would likely obviate the need for a trial in this Court because the State would have to indemnify its employees", (Affirmation of Eric E. Rothstein dated October 21, 2008, ¶ 18).

In opposition to claimant's motion, defense counsel indicates that there is no "guarantee" that resolution of the federal court action will eliminate the need for a trial in the Court of Claims and that "defendant will be potentially prejudiced by an undetermined and extended delay in the discovery process" (Affirmation In Opposition, ¶ 4).

CPLR 2201 permits the Court to stay an action in a "proper case, upon such terms as may be just." A case is properly stayed " 'where the decision in one action will determine all the questions in the other action, and the judgment on one trial will dispose of the controversy in both actions' " (Kubricky Constr. Corp. v Bucon, Inc., 282 AD2d 796, 797 [2001] quoting People v C. & W. Constr. Co., 246 App Div 373, 375 [1936]). A stay may be issued where appropriate to avoid "the risk of inconsistent adjudications, duplication of proof, and the potential waste of judicial resources" (El Greco Inc. v Cohn, 139 AD2d 615, 617 [1988]). While complete identity of parties, claims and relief sought are generally required, the Appellate Division, Third Department, has acknowledged that the cases are not uniform on this point and that a stay may be imposed so long as the causes of action are "sufficiently similar such that the goals of preserving judicial resources and preventing an inequitable result are properly served" (National Mgt. Corp. v Adolfi, 277 AD2d 553, 554-555 [2000]). Thus, even where there is not a complete identity of parties, a stay is warranted where "there [are] overlapping issues and common questions of law and fact" and the determination in one action may dispose of or limit issues for determination in the other (Belopolsky v Renew Data Corp., 41 AD3d 322, 322-323 [2007]; see also Buzzell v Mills, 32 AD2d 897 [1969]; Sakhuja v New York Med. Coll., 225 AD2d 391 [1996], lv denied 88 NY2d 816 [1996]).

Here, the facts giving rise to both the federal court action and the Court of Claims action are the same and the issues for determination overlap. The complaint in the federal court action raises not only the civil rights causes of action but the very same State law claims as are asserted here (see claimant's Exhibit E). As a result, the Court finds that issuance of a stay of the instant action would avoid the risk of inconsistent adjudications, duplication of proof and the potential waste of judicial resources.

That the State of New York is not a party to the federal court action is not determinative where it is the real party in interest. Although the State of New York is excluded from liability under § 1983, it is well recognized that the State is the real party in interest when an employee of the State is sued for actions taken while acting within the scope of his or her employment (Haywood v Drown, 9 NY3d 481, 489-490 [2007]; Public Officers Law § 17 [2], [3]). Thus, the fact that the State is not a party in the federal court action does not foreclose the imposition of a stay where it is the real party in interest and the underlying policy goals will be served by the imposition of a stay. Additionally, inasmuch as the City of New York and its employee are parties to the federal action, a more complete disposition of the issues may be obtained in the federal court action (see El Greco Inc. v Cohn, 139 AD2d at 616-617).

Accordingly, claimant's motion is granted and it is hereby

ORDERED that the action is stayed pending a final resolution of the federal court action, including all appeals; and it is further

ORDERED that claimant shall notify the Court of the final resolution of the federal court action within fifteen days thereof.



January 16, 2009
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated October 21, 2008;
  2. Affirmation of Eric E. Rothstein dated October 21, 2008 with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Saul Aronson dated October 28, 2008;
  4. Affirmation of Eric E. Rothstein dated November 3, 2008.