New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
CAMPBELL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2017-032-053, Claim No. None, Motion No. M-90139

Synopsis

Movant's application for late claim relief pursuant to Court of Claims Act 10 (6) is denied.

Case information

UID: 2017-032-053
Claimant(s): SHANNON V. CAMPBELL
Claimant short name: CAMPBELL
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-90139
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney: Shannon V. Campbell, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Hon. Eric T. Schneiderman, NYS Attorney General
By: Ray A. Kyles, Assistant Attorney General,
Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: October 3, 2017
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Movant, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (hereinafter DOCCS), seeks permission to file and serve a late claim alleging wrongful confinement, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and claims sounding in constitutional tort. Defendant opposes the motion on the grounds that movant has failed to establish the required elements for late claim relief pursuant to Court of Claims Act 10 (6).

In a proposed claim dated March 23, 2017, movant alleges the following facts. On September 27, 2015, movant's bunkmate fell off his stool and was taken to the facility's Medical Department (Proposed Claim, 3). The next day, movant's bunkmate accused movant of assaulting him (id., 4). At movant's Tier III disciplinary hearing regarding the alleged assault, the hearing officer violated movant's due process rights by refusing to allow him to call certain witnesses (id., 7). Movant was found guilty and sentenced to six months Special Housing Unit (SHU) confinement (id.). The hearing officer's decision was later administratively reversed (id., 18). As a result of the wrongful SHU confinement, movant alleges that he suffered from depression, headaches, and elevated blood pressure, lost his prison job and its accompanying wages, and missed Ju'mah religious services (id., 12-17).

LAW AND ANALYSIS

The Court of Claims is vested with broad discretion to grant or deny an application for permission to file a late claim (Matter of Gonzalez v State of New York, 299 AD2d 675 [3d Dept 2002]). In making a determination to grant or deny such an application, the Court must determine whether the claim would be timely under Article 2 of the CPLR and then consider certain statutory factors (Court of Claims Act 10[6]). These factors are: (1) whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable; (2) whether the state had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim; (3) whether the state had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim; (4) whether the state was substantially prejudiced; (5) whether the [movant] has any other available remedy; and (6) whether the claim appears to be meritorious (Court of Claims Act 10[6]). The presence or absence of any one of said factors is not dispositive ( Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's and Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979 [1982]). However, the last factor is the most decisive inasmuch as it is futile to proceed with a meritless claim even if the other factors support the granting of the movant's application (Savino v State of New York, 199 AD2d 254 [2d Dept 1993]; Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729 [2d Dept 1986]).

Wrongful Confinement

In the present case, the proposed claim alleges a wrongful confinement claim. For claims alleging wrongful confinement, the accrual date is the date upon which movant is released from the wrongful confinement (Boose v City of Rochester, 71 AD2d 59, 65 [4th Dept 1979]; Ramirez v State of New York, 171 Misc 2d 677, 680 [Ct Cl 1997]). Here, movant alleges that he was released from SHU confinement on March 4, 2016 (Proposed Claim, 14). To determine the applicable statute of limitations, the Court must determine whether movant's wrongful confinement claim sounds in intentional tort or negligence (Kairis v State of New York, 113 AD3d 942, 942 [3d Dept 2014]).

Claims alleging wrongful confinement generally sound in intentional tort, as the factual elements necessary to establish a claim for wrongful confinement mirror those of a claim for false imprisonment (Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78, 85 [2001]). To establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a claimant must show the following: (1) the defendant intended to confine him; (2) the claimant was conscious of the confinement; (3) the claimant did not consent to the confinement; and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged (see Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456 [1975], cert. denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 [1975]). If a claim for wrongful confinement is properly characterized as an intentional tort, it is subject to the one year statute of limitations applicable to intentional torts contained in CPLR 215. "[F]or a wrongful excessive confinement claim to sound in negligence it must include an allegation akin to ministerial negligence, i.e. that rules and regulations required that [movant] be released from the confinement and that defendant failed to do so" (Roots v State of New York, UID No. 2017-038-543 [Ct Cl, DeBow, J., June 15, 2017]). Where a wrongful confinement claim alleges that due process violations occurred at the claimant's disciplinary hearing, and that those due process violations resulted in a finding of guilty, "the proposed claim is properly construed as a sounding in intentional tort" (id.). Here, movant alleges that the hearing officer at his Tier III hearing violated his due process rights, and those alleged violations resulted in a guilty determination (Proposed Claim, 9). Thus, movant's wrongful confinement claim is properly characterized as an intentional tort, and the one year statute of limitations contained in CPLR 215 is applicable. The statute of limitations for movant's wrongful confinement claim expired on March 4, 2017, one year after the date that he was released from SHU confinement. Because movant did not file the present motion to file a late claim until March 29, 2017, it is untimely.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

It is well settled that for public policy reasons, the maintenance of lawsuits against the State for intentional infliction of emotional distress are prohibited (see Augat v State of New York, 244 AD2d 835 [3d Dept 1997]). Accordingly, claimant's cause of action seeking damages for intentional infliction of distress, (Proposed Claim, 19-20), is meritless.

Federal and State Constitutional Torts

To the extent that movant alleges violations of his rights under the Federal Constitution, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over such claims, as they must be brought pursuant to 42 USC 1983 and may not be maintained in the Court of Claims, given that the State is not a "person" for purposes of the statute (see Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172, 185 [1996]; Zagarella v State of New York, 149 AD2d 503, 504 [2d Dept 1989]; Ohnmacht v State of New York, 14 Misc 3d 1231 [A], at *2 [Ct Cl 2007]).

To the extent that movant seeks to allege State constitutional torts, the Court finds that "[r]ecognition of a constitutional tort claim here is neither necessary to effectuate the purposes of the State constitutional protections [claimant] invokes, nor appropriate to ensure full realization of [his] rights" (Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d at 83; compare Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d at 192). To the extent that the alleged constitutional violations of the denial of due process and the interference with religious freedom were the result of movant's disciplinary proceedings, his remedy was to pursue an administrative appeal, and if unsatisfied with the result, commence a CPLR Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court (see generally Matter of Allah v Goord, 26 AD3d 608 [3d Dept 2006], lv denied 6 NY3d 714 [2006]; Matter of Davis v Goord, 21 AD3d 606, 609 [3d Dept 2005], lv dismissed and denied 5 NY3d 861 [2005]). Claimant's remedy with respect to the termination of his job was to avail himself of the Inmate Grievance Program (7 NYCRR part 701), and if unsuccessful to commence a CPLR Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court (see e.g. Matter of Miller v Croce, 290 AD2d 662, 662 [3d Dept 2002]; Matter of Konigsberg v Coughlin, 124 AD2d 262, 262 [3d Dept 1986]). Finally, although movant attempts to argue that his SHU confinement was a form of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the New York State Constitution, the claim is in essence one for wrongful confinement. Thus, the Court need not imply a State Constitutional remedy (Gomez v State of New York, UID No. 2015-045-030 [Ct Cl, Lopez-Summa, J., Sept. 28, 2015]). Because alternate remedies were available to claimant, and he availed himself of those remedies by commencing an Article 78 proceeding, it is not necessary for this Court to recognize a cause of action under the State Constitution (Martinez v City of Schenectady, 97 NY2d 78 at 83; Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d at 184-185).

Additionally, as to movant's challenge to the constitutionality of Court of Claims Act 10 (3), "challenges to the constitutionality of state statutes and regulations are properly brought in Supreme Court in a declaratory judgment action and not in the Court of Claims" (Pearson v State of New York, UID No. 2016-038-558 [Ct Cl, DeBow, J., Sept. 19, 2016], citing Cass v State of New York, 58 NY2d 460, 463 [1983]; Shelton v New York State Liq. Auth., 61 AD3d 1145, 1150-1151 [3d Dept 2009]).

CONCLUSION

Accordingly, it is hereby ordered that movant's motion for permission to file a late claim ( M-90139) is denied.

October 3, 2017

Albany, New York

JUDITH A. HARD

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Affidavit in Support of Motion for Permission to File a Late Claim, affirmed by movant on March 23, 2017, with exhibits.

2. Affirmation in Opposition to Claimant's Motion for Permission to File a Late Claim, affirmed by Ray A. Kyles, AAG on April 24, 2017, with exhibits.

3. Affidavit in Reply to the State's Opposition to Claimant's Application for Permission to File a Late Claim, affirmed by movant on June 6, 2017.