New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-045-015, Claim No. 115960, Motion No. M-76216


Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Ronald Williams, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney GeneralBy: Stephen J. Maher, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
April 29, 2009

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read and considered by the court on this motion: Claimant’s Notice of Motion, Claimant’s Affidavit in Support with annexed Exhibits 1-6, Defendant’s Affirmation in Opposition with annexed Exhibit A, Claimant’s letter dated February 5, 2009 with annexed Exhibits, the filed Claim and the filed Verified Answer.

Claimant, Ronald Williams, a pro se inmate, moves this Court for an order striking defendant’s affirmative defenses raised in the verified Answer. Defendant, the State of New York, opposes claimant’s motion.

Claimant stated in his filed Claim that his claim is for negligence committed by defendant through its employees by failing to deposit a federal income tax refund check into claimant’s inmate account on April 10, 2007. At the time of the incident claimant was incarcerated at the Camp Gabriels Correctional Facility. Claimant alleged that defendant opened his mail without authorization and illegally confiscated the check. Defendant asserts that the check in the amount of $327,456.04 was fraudulent. On June 8, 2008 claimant filed an Inmate Property Claim Form to recover his federal income tax refund check. On August 6, 2008, claimant’s claim was disapproved based on a determination by the facility that the check was fraudulent. Claimant filed an appeal of that decision on August 8, 2008 which was denied on September 5, 2008. Thereafter claimant filed his claim in the Court of Claims on October 15, 2008.

A motion to dismiss affirmative defenses must be made on the grounds that the defenses are not stated or that they are without merit (CPLR 3211[b]). The moving party bears the burden of coming forward with sufficient proof to demonstrate that the defense cannot be maintained (Arquette v State of New York, 190 Misc 2d 676 [Ct Cl 2001]). It is error for a court to strike a defense if material issues of fact remain unresolved (Matter of Harrison v State of New York, 262 AD2d 833 [3d Dept 1999] and in fact “[i]f there is doubt as to the availability of a defense, it should not be dismissed” (Duboff v Board of Higher Educ. of City of N.Y., 34 AD2d 824 [2d Dept 1970]).

Defendant’s first affirmative defense states that claimant’s culpable conduct caused or contributed to cause the damages alleged in the claim and its second affirmative defense asserts third party negligence. At this early juncture, claimant has failed to establish that these defenses have no merit. Accordingly, claimant’s motion to strike the first and second affirmative defenses is denied.
Defendant asserts that the claim fails to state a cause of action in its third affirmative defense. The affirmative defense of failure to state a cause of action is harmless surplusage and a motion to strike it must be denied as unnecessary (Pump v Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 138 AD2d 849 [3d Dept 1988]).

Defendant’s fourth affirmative defense states that the court lacks subject matter and personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The fifth affirmative defense states that the claim is barred by the statute of limitations. While it appears as though claimant has filed and served his claim within the appropriate time periods, claimant has failed to submit sufficient proof to conclusively establish that his claim was served by an appropriate method. Defendant has also raised an argument concerning the date the claim actually accrued. Thus, at this point the court will not strike defendant’s fourth and fifth affirmative defenses.

Defendant’s sixth, seventh and ninth affirmative defenses raise justification, privilege and immunity defenses. Claimant has failed to establish that these defenses have no merit. Accordingly, these affirmative defenses shall not be stricken at this point in the action.

In regard to defendant’s tenth affirmative defense, clearly the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction over federal matters (see Court of Claims Act § 9). Consequently, the Court will not strike defendant’s tenth affirmative defense.

Defendant’s eleventh affirmative defense asserts that the claim fails to state the date of accrual of the cause of action as required by Court of Claims Act §11. Claimant states an accrual date in the filed Claim however defendant argues that the asserted accrual date is incorrect. Thus, the Court will not strike defendant’s eleventh affirmative defense at this early stage of the case.

Defendant’s fourteenth affirmative defense asserts that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the claim as the cause of action should be brought in the nature of an Article 78 and not a claim in the Court of Claims. Claimant has failed to establish that this defense is not meritorious. Therefore, the fourteenth affirmative defense shall remain in the case.

The filed Claim establishes that defendant’s eighth, twelfth and thirteenth affirmative defenses are without merit. Accordingly, the Court dismisses those defenses. Additionally, defendant has withdrawn its “fifty-fifth” affirmative defense.

Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, claimant’s motion is granted to the extent that defendant’s eighth, twelfth, thirteenth and “fifty- fifth” affirmative defenses are stricken from defendant’s Answer. Claimant’s motion is denied in all other respects.

April 29, 2009
Hauppauge, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims