New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
WARD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-015-029, Claim No. 135466, Motion No. M-96266

Synopsis

Claim was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction as the claim arose from conditions in a local jail. To the extent the claim was based on conduct of the state, it failed to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b).

Case information

UID: 2021-015-029
Claimant(s): WILLIAM WARD
Claimant short name: WARD
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 135466
Motion number(s): M-96266
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: No Appearance
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Glenn C. King, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: February 23, 2021
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Defendant moves for dismissal pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2), (7) and (8) on the grounds this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claim and personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and the claim fails to state a cause of action.

Claimant filed a claim which cryptically alleges damages for "prison conditions," "health issues," "cell assignments" and "eight[h] [a]mendment" (defendant's Exhibit A, Claim, 3-8). The claim also references a notice of intention to file a claim, which was attached to the filed claim, alleging damages for injuries sustained in an inmate-on-inmate assault at the Albany County jail on or about October 16, 2019.

Defendant primarily contends that the Court of Claims lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter as the State may not be held vicariously liable for the conduct of counties in the operation of their local jails. The Court agrees.

The Court of Claims is a Court of limited jurisdiction empowered to award damages in appropriation, contract or tort for claims against the State of New York (see NY Const, art VI, 9; Court of Claims Act 9) and certain other specified entities (see, e.g., Education Law 6224 [4]; Public Authorities Law 361-b and 2622; Mitchell v The State of New York, Ct Cl, June 27, 2005, Collins, J. , claim No. 110085, UID No. 2005-015-025).(1) Custody and control of county jails is conferred upon Sheriffs by Correction Law 500-c and a sheriff is a "local officer" within the meaning of Public Officers Law 2 (see County Law 3, 400). Each county is responsible for maintaining its jails (County Law 217) and upon compliance with General Municipal Law 50-e, is "liable under the same rules of law applicable to the state" (County Law 53; see also County Law 52 and 54). Inasmuch as the tort liability of the State may only be predicated upon the conduct "of its officers or employees while acting as such officers or employees" (Court of Claims Act 9 [2]), liability may not be imputed to the State for the conduct of Albany County in the operation of its jail (see Eddy v State of New York, Ct Cl, October 2, 2006, Sise, A.P.J., claim No. None, UID 2006-028-581; Fonfa v State of New York, 88 Misc 2d 343 [Ct Cl, 1976]).

Lastly, to the extent it could be argued that the claim refers to unspecified tortuous conduct of the State, not included in the notice of intention, the claim fails to sufficiently allege "the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, . . . or [the] injuries claimed to have been sustained" as required by the jurisdictional pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b) (see Clark v State of New York, 165 AD3d 1371 [3d Dept 2018], lv denied 33 NY3d 905 [2019], rearg denied 34 NY3d 973 [2019]; Morra v State of New York, 107 AD3d 1115, 1115 [3d Dept 2013]).

Based on the foregoing, defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

February 23, 2021

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of motion dated November 19, 2020;
  2. Affirmation in support dated November 19, 2020, with Exhibit A.

1. Unreported decisions from the Court of Claims are available via the internet at http//www.nyscourtofclaims.state.ny.us./decision.htm.