New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MURRY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-159, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-76169


Synopsis


Pro se inmate's motion for late claim relief arising out of disciplinary proceeding was denied. State is immune from liability.

Case Information

UID:
2009-015-159
Claimant(s):
BRUCE F. MURRY
Claimant short name:
MURRY
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
NONE
Motion number(s):
M-76169
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Bruce F. Murry, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Stephen J. Maher, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
April 2, 2009
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Movant, an inmate proceeding pro se, seeks late claim relief pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 10 (6). The proposed claim arises from a Tier II disciplinary hearing held at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility on June 30, 2008 in which the movant was found guilty of charges relating to his refusal to attend a medical appointment. The charges were affirmed in an administrative appeal and movant's article 78 petition in the Supreme Court was dismissed based, in part, upon a finding "that respondent acted in full compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements" (see respondent's Exhibit A). Movant alleges in his proposed claim the following:
"I was found guilty with no proof to concur with what the defendants said. There is no medical agreement signed by the claimant and the defendants found claimant guilty because the nurse said, 'He signed a medical trip agreement.' "

Movant avers in his affidavit submitted in support of the instant motion that he did not sign a medical trip agreement and the nurse's contrary testimony during his disciplinary hearing was a "lie". The proposed claim alleges damages in the amount of $2,500 for legal fees and costs associated with pursuing relief in the Supreme Court and the Court of Claims.

Subdivision 6 of section 10 of the Court of Claims Act permits this Court, if the applicable Statute of Limitations set forth in article 2 of the CPLR has not expired, to allow the filing of a late claim upon consideration of the following factors: "whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable; whether the state had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; whether the state had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; whether the claim appears to be meritorious; whether the failure to file or serve upon the attorney general a timely claim or to serve upon the attorney general a notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to the state; and whether the claimant has any other available remedy."

The first issue for determination upon a late claim motion is whether the application is timely. Subdivision 6 of Section 10 requires that a motion to file a late claim be made "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." As the claim is premised upon the intentional conduct of the nurse whose testimony was allegedly false, the one year statute of limitation applies (CPLR 215 [3]). The instant motion is therefore timely.

Turning to the statutory factors, this Court has broad discretion in deciding a motion to permit the late filing of a claim (Ledet v State of New York, 207 AD2d 965). The statutory factors are not exhaustive nor is any one factor controlling (Matter of Gavigan v State of New York, 176 AD2d 1117 [1991]). The most important factor is whether the potential claim has merit, as it would be a futile exercise to permit litigation of a clearly baseless lawsuit (Savino v State of New York, 199 AD2d 254 [1993]).

The the movant asserts that he failed to timely serve and file his claim because "[a]s a lay person, I was not aware of the filing period set forth in the Court of Claims Act . . . ". Movant also argues that his prison confinement hampered his ability to confer with counsel. It is well settled, however, that neither ignorance of the law nor confinement in a correctional facility provide an acceptable excuse for a delay in serving and filing a claim (Matter of Robinson v State of New York, 35 AD3d 948, 950 [2006]). Accordingly, the Court does not find movant's excuse for the delay in serving and filing the claim to be reasonable.

The intertwined issues of notice, opportunity to investigate and prejudice to the State will be considered together. The State concedes that to the extent it was involved in the disciplinary hearing and defense of the article 78 proceeding in the Supreme Court, it had notice of the underlying facts and an opportunity to investigate the circumstances of the proposed claim.

With respect to the required showing of merit, the claim is sufficiently established if the claimant demonstrates that the proposed claim is not patently groundless, frivolous, or legally defective and there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1 [1977]; Fowx v State of New York, 12 Misc3d 1184 [2006]). The law is well-settled that conduct taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures is quasi-judicial in nature and entitled to absolute immunity (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212 [1988]). Only where it is established that correction employees acted beyond their authority or in violation of the governing rules and regulations is recovery possible (Id. at 220). Thus, to prevail on his proposed claim the movant would have to establish that the hearing was not conducted in accordance with the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d at 220; Johnson v State of New York, UID # 2008-044-566, Claim No. 112789 [Ct Cl, July 24, 2008], Schaewe, J). Here, the movant's unsuccessful pursuit of article 78 review in the Supreme Court precludes him from relitigating matters previously determined against him in that proceeding (Parker v Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Co., 93 NY2d 343 [1999]; McMillan v State of New York, 267 AD2d 78 [1999], lv denied 95 NY2d 757 [2000]; Lublin v State of New York, 135 Misc 2d 419, 420 [Ct Cl 1987], affd 135 AD2d 1155 [1987], lv denied 71 NY2d 802 [1988]; Johnson v State of New York, supra). Inasmuch as it was previously determined that the Tier II disciplinary hearing was conducted in accordance with the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, the State is entitled to absolute immunity for the conduct complained of in this case (see Arteaga v State of New York, supra).

As to the final factor to be considered, the claimant had an alternative remedy in the form of an article 78 proceeding, which he unsuccessfully pursued.

Consideration of the totality of factors required to be considered on this motion leads this Court to conclude that late claim relief would not be appropriate. Accordingly, the motion is denied.


April 2, 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 sworn to January 22, 2009;
  2. Affidavit of Bruce F. Murry sworn to January 22, 2009 with exhibits;
  3. Affirmation of Stephen J. Maher dated February 12, 2009 with exhibit.