New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SEALEY v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-058-004, Claim No. NONE, Motion No. M-94681

Synopsis

Motion for permission to serve and file a late Claim alleging wrongful confinement denied; proposed claim failed to allege that Defendant violated any particular rule or regulation in conducting the prison disciplinary hearing or that Movant's disciplinary determination was reversed or annulled either by administrative appeal or CPLR Article 78 proceeding.

Case information

UID: 2020-058-004
Claimant(s): SANTINARRA SEALEY
Claimant short name: SEALEY
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): NONE
Motion number(s): M-94681
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: CATHERINE E. LEAHY-SCOTT
Claimant's attorney: Santinarra Sealey, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Hon. Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Christopher J. Kalil, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: January 13, 2020
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Pro se Movant Santinarra Sealey seeks permission to serve and file a late claim for wrongful confinement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) at Marcy Correctional Facility from June 18, 2018 to October 9, 2018. Defendant opposes the motion.

The Court has discretion to permit the filing of a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims 10 (6) provided that the applicable statute of limitations set forth in Article 2 of the CPLR has not expired. Thus, the first issue for determination upon any late claim motion is whether the application is timely. The proposed claim alleges a cause of action sounding in wrongful confinement, which accrues on "the date on which [Movant's] confinement terminated" (Santiago v City of Rochester, 19 AD3d 1061, 1062 [4th Dept 2005], lv denied 5 NY3d 710 [2005]; see Davis v State of New York, 89 AD3d 1287, 1287 [3d Dept 2011]) and carries a one-year statute of limitations under CPLR 215 (3). Because the proposed claim accrued on October 9, 2018 and the instant application was made on October 3, 2019, the proposed claim is timely.

Upon satisfaction that the proposed claim is timely, the Court will consider six statutory factors set forth in Court of Claims Act 10 (6) as well as other relevant factors in determining whether to grant the late claim (see Plate v State of New York, 92 Misc 2d 1033, 1036 [Ct Cl 1978]). Although Movant need not satisfy every statutory factor enumerated in Court of Claims Act 10 (6) (see Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV v New York State Employees' Retirement Sys. Policemen's & Firemen's Retirement Sys., 55 NY2d 979, 981 [1982]), the ultimate burden rests with Movant to persuade the Court to grant his or her late claim motion (see Matter of Flannery v State of New York, 91 Misc 2d 797, 800-801 [Ct Cl 1977]).

The first factor to be considered is whether the delay in filing the claim was excusable. Movant contends that the late filing of his claim is excusable because he was unaware of the filing requirements of the Court of Claims Act and received incorrect advice from the law library clerks (see Movant's Aff in Supp, 4-8). It is well settled that a movant's ignorance of the law and the lack of proper assistance from law library clerks are not compelling excuses for the late filing of a claim (see Rumph v State of New York, UID No. 2014-044-550 [Ct Cl, Schaewe, J., Sept. 15, 2014] [ignorance of Court of Claims Act requirements and inadequate assistance from law library clerks are not sufficient excuses for filing a late claim]). Accordingly, Movant fails to proffer a reasonable excuse for the delay in filing his claim. Nevertheless, "the tender of a reasonable excuse for delay in filing a claim is not a precondition to permission to file a late claim such as to constitute a sine qua non for the requested relief" (Bay Terrace Coop. Section IV, 55 NY2d at 981).

The next three factors to be addressed--whether Defendant had notice of the essential facts constituting the claim, whether Defendant had an opportunity to investigate the circumstances underlying the claim, and whether the failure to file or serve a timely claim or to serve a notice of intention resulted in substantial prejudice to Defendant--are interrelated and will be considered together. Movant argues that Defendant had notice of the essential facts and an opportunity to investigate by reason of Movant's tier III disciplinary hearing and subsequent confinement in the SHU, as well as Movant's commencement of an Article 78 proceeding challenging the disciplinary determination (see Movant's Aff in Supp 9). Notably, Defendant does not argue lack of notice of the essential facts or lack of opportunity to investigate. Nor does Defendant assert that it will be substantially prejudiced by a delay in filing a claim. Consequently, these factors weigh in favor of Movant (see Davis v State of New York, UID No. 2018-032-20 [Ct Cl, Hard, J., Mar. 23, 2018]).

The fifth factor to be considered is whether Movant has another remedy available. Although Movant concedes that he commenced an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court, Albany County challenging the disciplinary determination leading to his confinement, it does not appear that he has an alternative remedy available to seek money damages for such confinement. Accordingly, the Court concludes that this factor weighs in Movant's favor.

The last and perhaps most important factor to be considered is whether the proposed Claim has the appearance of merit, for "it would be futile to permit a defective claim to be filed even if the other factors in Court of Claims Act 10 (6) supported the granting of the claimant's motion" (Ortiz v State of New York, 78 AD3d 1314, 1314 [3d Dept 2010], affd sub nom. Donald v State of New York, 17 NY3d 389 [2011] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted]). It is Movant's burden to show that the claim is not patently groundless, frivolous or legally defective, and, based upon the entire record, including the proposed claim and any affidavits, that there is reasonable cause to believe that a valid cause of action exists (see Sands v State of New York, 49 AD3d 444, 444 [1st Dept 2008]; Matter of Santana v New York State Thruway Auth., 92 Misc 2d 1, 11 [Ct Cl 1977]). Although this standard places a heavier burden upon a party who has filed late, it does not require a movant to establish the merit of the claim or to overcome all legal objections before the Court will permit the filing of a late claim (see Matter of Santana, 92 Misc 2d at 11-12).

"To establish a claim of false imprisonment or unlawful confinement, [a] claimant [is] required to show that (1) defendant intended to confine him, (2) he was conscious of the confinement, (3) he did not consent to the confinement, and (4) such confinement was not otherwise privileged" (Cass v State of New York, 134 AD3d 1207, 1208 [3d Dept 2015], lv dismissed 27 NY3d 972 [2016] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]; accord Miller v State of New York, 124 AD3d 997, 998 [3d Dept 2015]).

It is well settled that actions of correctional facility employees taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures are quasi-judicial in nature and entitled to absolute immunity unless the employees exceed their authority or violated governing statutes and regulations (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214 [1988]; Davidson v State of New York, 66 AD3d 1089, 1090 [3d Dept 2009]). However, "not all disciplinary hearing procedural rules and regulations, if violated, form a basis to abrogate the immunity afforded to employees of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in commencing and conducting formal inmate disciplinary proceedings. The rule or regulation must implicate minimal due process protections" (Amato v State of New York, UID No. 2014-041-038 [Ct Cl, Milano, J., June 26, 2014]).

The proposed claim fails to allege that Defendant violated any particular rule or regulation in conducting the disciplinary hearing(1) or that Movant's disciplinary determination was reversed or annulled either by administrative appeal or Article 78 proceeding (see Black v State of New York, UID No. 2019-041-030 [Ct Cl, Milano, J., June 18, 2019] [denying late claim application where the movant failed to allege that the defendant violated any particular rule or regulation in conducting the disciplinary hearing and did not assert that the disciplinary determination was reversed or annulled]). As Defendant notes, Movant's disciplinary determination underlying this proposed Claim for wrongful confinement was affirmed on administrative appeal and confirmed by the Appellate Division, Third Department (see Matter of Sealey v Annucci, 177 AD3d 1072, 1073 [3d Dept 2019]; Holberg v County of Albany, 291 AD2d 610, 612 [3d Dept 2002] ["where a facially valid order issued by a court with proper jurisdiction directs confinement, that confinement is privileged and everyone connected with the matter is protected from liability" (internal citation omitted)]).(2) The proposed claim thus fails to allege facts supporting a cause of action for wrongful confinement and, consequently, lacks the appearance of merit.

Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing, the Motion seeking permission to serve and file a Claim late pursuant to Court of Claims Act 10 (6) is denied.

January 13, 2020

Albany, New York

CATHERINE E. LEAHY-SCOTT

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court has considered the following in deciding this motion:

(1) Notice of Motion, filed October 3, 2019.

(2) Affidavit of Santinarra Sealy in Support of Motion, sworn to on September 27, 2019.

(3) Affirmation of Christopher J. Kalil, Esquire, Assistant Attorney General, in Opposition to the Motion, dated December 23, 2019.

(4) Reply Affidavit in Support of Motion to File a Late Claim, sworn to on December 29, 2019.


1. Although Movant alleges in his moving papers that Defendant violated Directive No. 4483, he does so only with respect to the assistance the library law clerk provided him in bringing his Claim. Movant does not allege that Defendant violated any rule or regulation in conducting his disciplinary hearing. Nevertheless, "there exists no free-standing tort for money damages for alleged deficiencies in the Defendant's provision of a law library or law library services" (Lorusso v State of New York, UID No. 2002-028-010 [Ct Cl, Sise, J., Mar. 1, 2002]; see People v Cabrera, 259 AD2d 1007, 1007 [4th Dept 1999], lv denied 94 NY2d 798 [1999]).

2. Although Movant requests that this Court hold his motion in abeyance pending an appeal of the Third Department's decision confirming his disciplinary determination, he has submitted no proof demonstrating that such appeal has been taken. In any event, such appeal will have no impact on the proposed claim because, as stated above, Movant fails to allege that Defendant violated any particular rule or regulation in conducting the disciplinary hearing.