New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BELGRAVE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-135, Claim No. 115849, Motion No. M-75902


Synopsis


Claim against State for improper deductions from his paycheck to recoup balance owed on student loan was dismissed. Defendant established in support of its motion for summary judgment that the Department of Education, the assignee of the loan, made the deductions and not the State. Moreover, the conversion claim was time barred.

Case Information

UID:
2009-015-135
Claimant(s):
JAMES BELGRAVE
1 1.The caption is amended sua sponte to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Claimant short name:
BELGRAVE
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption is amended sua sponte to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
115849
Motion number(s):
M-75902
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
James Belgrave, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Thomas R. Monjeau, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
February 11, 2009
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Defendant moves for summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3212 and Court of Claims Act § § 9, 10, and 11. Claimant seeks to recover damages for improper deductions from his paycheck made by or at the behest of the New York State Higher Education Services Corp. (NYSHESC) to recoup the remaining balance of a student loan. Defendant argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim on several bases asserting that NYSHESC assigned the loan to the United States Department of Education (DOE) on December 21, 2000, the claim is untimely and that the claim fails to comply with the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11. For the reasons which follow, the motion is granted.

The claimant alleges the following acts or omissions as the basis for his claim:
"I James Belgrave had a Loan of $4000.00 from New York State Higher Education Services Corporation in 1988. After completing the course at Berk Trade School, I worked and paid back the Loan $6,742.39 in full (interest included), and by mistake over-payed it by 4 payments totalling [sic] $224.76. N.Y.S.H.E S, Corp. claimed that I did not paid back the loan, and start taking money from my Pay-check wrongfully in the amount of $384.90. Although I sent copies of the Returned Cancelled checks to them as proof of payment, and 2 letters requesting the refund of $553.06. N.Y.S.H.E.S. Corp., refused, and continued taking money from me through U.S. Department of Education until May 2008, while the Case was still going on in Federal Court at 225 Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, New York, at which time on July 17, 2008 His Honorable Judge Jack Weinstein ordered U.S. Department of Education to refund me all the money which they took from me, and ordered U.S.D.O.E. to stop taking any money from me any source.

I am bringing this Case against N.Y.S.H.E.S.Corp./N.Y. State, and am asking Your Honor to order N.Y.S. Higher Education Services Corp./N.Y.State to refund me $553.06 which N.Y.S.H.E.S. Corp. owe me. Thanking your Honor."

In support of its motion for summary judgment the defendant submits the affidavit of Joseph M. Catalano who is employed by NYSHESC as its Assistant Vice President in Collection Default Management. Mr. Catalano states in his affidavit that the claimant applied for and received two student loans - a Federal Stafford loan in the amount of $2,625.00 and a Federal Supplemental loan in the amount of $4,000.00. The loans were made by Chemical Bank and guaranteed by the defendant NYSHESC. Claimant failed to pay the loans as agreed and Chemical Bank sought reimbursement from NYSHESC which paid the claim on July 25, 1990 in the amount of $6,721.44. After paying Chemical Bank, NYSHESC established on its books and records an account due in the sum of $6,721.44. Of this amount, claimant made payments of $6,237.46. However, only $929.27 of the amount paid was applied to principal, the remainder being applied to interest ($5,032.01), collection costs ($176.18) and the "SPCA" fee ($100.00).[2] According to Mr. Catalano's affidavit and the recalculated ledger card attached thereto, the last payment credited to the claimant's account with the NYSHESC occurred in 1999 and the account was thereafter assigned to the DOE on December 21, 2000 (see defendant's Exhibits C, ¶ 7 and C [4]). According to Mr. Catalano claimant owed a balance of $6,479.89, at the time the loan was assigned to the DOE on December 21, 2000, leaving a zero balance on the books and records of NYSHESC as of that date.

It is well established that " 'summary judgment is a drastic remedy and should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of a triable issue' " (Rotuba Extruders, Inc.v Ceppos, 46 NY2d 223, 231 [1978][citation omitted])http://web2.westlaw.com/find/default.wl?rs=WLW6.11&serialnum=1979103056&fn=_top&sv=Split&tc=-1&findtype=Y&tf=-1&db=605&vr=2.0&rp. "The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case" (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]) . Once the movant has made this showing, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion "to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action" (Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986] citing Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]).

Defendant's first argument in support of dismissal is premised on the contention that since the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is limited to actions against the State, and the claimant's debt was assigned to the DOE in the year 2000, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter. However, the claimant is not suing the DOE in the Court of Claims, he is suing theState of New York, a fact which brings this matter within the Court's jurisdiction to decide (Court of Claims Act § 9 [2]). The defendant did sufficiently establish, however, that NYSHESC took no money from the claimant's paycheck in 2008 as alleged. According to Mr. Catalano's affidavit and the recalculated ledger card attached thereto, the last payment credited to the claimant's account with the NYSHESC was in 1999 (see defendant's Exhibit C [4]). Inasmuch as the loan was assigned to the DOE in the year 2000, the defendant has sufficiently refuted the claimant's allegations that NYSHESC "continued taking money from me through U.S. Department of Education until May 2008." Thus, defendant established that it is not responsible for the deductions from the claimant's paycheck which form the basis of the claim.

Moreover, to the extent the claim may be construed to state a cause of action for conversion, the allegation in the claim that money was taken from claimant's paycheck until May 2008 renders the claim served on September 15, 2008 and filed on September 17, 2008 untimely (Court of Claims Act § 10 [3-b]).

In opposition to the defendant's motion, the claimant submitted only an unsworn letter which is insufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact requiring a trial (see Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, supra). Moreover, while the claimant states in this letter that the defendant did not stop taking money from him until July 17, 2008, the unsworn allegation is contradicted by the allegations in the claim itself which state that the last date money was taken from his paycheck was in May 2008.

Based on the foregoing, the defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted and the claim is dismissed.



February 11, 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 November 26, 2008;
  2. Affirmation of Thomas R. Monjeau dated November 26, 2008 with exhibits;
  3. Affidavit of Joseph M. Catalano sworn to November 18, 2008 with exhibits;
  4. Letter dated December 8, 2008 from James Belgrave with attachments.

[2]. It is not clear from Mr. Catalano's affidavit what this fee represents.