New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-018-042, Claim No. 116714, Motion No. M-76735


Synopsis


Defendant brings a motion to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) (1) and (7) on the grounds that there is a defense based upon documentary evidence; and as a result, the claim fails to state a cause of action. Defendant has failed to establish, as a matter of law, a defense to the asserted claim, and Claimant has set forth a cognizable cause of action for ministerial neglect. The motion is DENIED.

Case Information

UID:
2009-018-042
Claimant(s):
DENISE JOHNSON
Claimant short name:
JOHNSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
116714
Motion number(s):
M-76735
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Claimant’s attorney:
MANNION & COPANIBy: Ryan L. Abel, Esquire
Defendant’s attorney:
ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Bonnie Gail Levy, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 8, 2009
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Defendant brings a motion seeking a Decision and Order dismissing the claim pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) (1) and (7) on the grounds that there is a defense based upon documentary evidence; and as a result, the claim fails to state a cause of action. Claimant opposes the motion.

The claim arises from Claimant’s arrest on an outstanding warrant on October 20, 2007, at approximately 6:45 p.m., when she was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. During that traffic stop, Claimant was arrested on the warrant and placed in jail overnight; the warrant was based upon her alleged failure to pay a fine for violating a City of Syracuse ordinance. The fine resulted from a citation issued to her on May 10, 2006, when a person was bitten by a dog which Claimant alleges was owned by her brother. For that citation, Claimant was directed to pay a fine of $75 by June 19, 2006, and that Claimant alleges that she paid the fine on June 15, 2006. Claimant alleges that the Defendant negligently processed the payment of her fine resulting in the issuance of the warrant for her arrest. Based upon her payment of the fine, Claimant believes the warrant was wrongfully issued.

By this motion, Defendant asserts that documentary evidence establishes that the ticket Claimant paid on June 15, 2006, was actually a traffic ticket issued to Daryl Johnson and not the fine for violating the local dog control ordinance. Based upon this evidence, Defendant alleges the claim fails to state a cause of action and must be dismissed because Defendant did not act negligently in processing Claimant’s payment or issuing the bench warrant.

On a motion to dismiss, the Court must liberally construe the claim and accept as true the facts asserted (511 West 232nd Owners Corp. v Jennifer Realty Co., 98 NY2d 144; Niagara Falls Water Bd. v City of Niagara Falls, 64 AD3d 1142). Claimant must be given every favorable inference (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87). Dismissal based upon CPLR 3211(a) (1) is only authorized if “the documentary evidence submitted conclusively establishes a defense to the asserted claims as a matter of law.” (Leon, 84 NY2d at 88; 511 West 232nd Owners Corp. 98 NY2d at 152; Schiavetti v A & L, Inc., 34 AD3d 1267). The motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action must be denied if from the “four corners” of the pleading the factual assertions set forth any cognizable cause of action (People v Coventry First LLC, 13 NY3d 108; Leon, 84 NY2d at 87-88).

Here, Defendant’s documentary evidence shows that Claimant was obligated to pay a $75 fine by June 19, 2006. Claimant paid a fine in the amount of $75 on June 15, 2006, which was credited to a fine and surcharge in the amount of $110 imposed on a traffic ticket (LV-0422995) issued to Daryl L. Johnson, Claimant’s brother. The fine and surcharge, however, had already been paid on the traffic ticket on May 26, 2006.

Claimant, in response to this motion, states she advised the Clerk at the City Court Clerk’s Office on June 15, 2006, that she was there to pay the fine on her local ordinance ticket. Her payment was undoubtedly not credited to her fine. Under the circumstances, Defendant has failed to conclusively establish as a matter of law a defense to the asserted claim. Moreover, Claimant has set forth a cognizable cause of action for ministerial neglect (see Ostrowski v State of New York, 186 Misc 2d 890; Stewart v State of New York, 18 Misc 3d 236).

Accordingly, Defendant’s motion is DENIED.

September 8, 2009
Syracuse, New York

HON. DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court has considered the following documents in deciding this motion:

1. Notice of Motion.

2. Affirmation of Bonnie Gail Levy, Esquire, Assistant Attorney General, in support with exhibits attached thereto.

3. Affidavit of Denise Johnson, Claimant, in opposition, sworn to June 22, 2009.