New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
STARKS v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-015-123, Claim No. 124231, Motion No. M-91960

Synopsis

Claim was dismissed for failing to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b).

Case information

UID: 2018-015-123
Claimant(s): ANDRE STARKS
Claimant short name: STARKS
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 124231
Motion number(s): M-91960
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: No Appearance
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General
By: Paul F. Cagino, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 24, 2018
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Defendant moves for dismissal pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2) and (7), alleging the claim fails to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b).

Claimant, proceeding pro se, seeks damages for wrongful confinement arising from his confinement to the Special Housing Unit. Claimant alleges in his claim that he was "written up" for gambling, making threats, possession of a weapon, and violent conduct on October 17, 2013, that the weapon charge "along with altered item" was dismissed on November 20, 2013, and that the Director of the Special Housing Unit "reversed and expunged all charges from my records" (defendant's Exhibit A, Claim, 4 and 5). As a result of defendant's conduct, claimant alleges he was removed from a required substance abuse program and denied parole release in February 2014.

Defendant contends in support of its dismissal motion that the claim fails to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b) because it fails to allege either the place or date of accrual. In addition, defendant contends that it is immune from liability because no circumstances are alleged from which a violation of a due process safeguard could be inferred.

The State's waiver of immunity is contingent upon compliance with the specific conditions to suit set forth in article II of the Court of Claims Act, which include the pleading requirements set forth in 11 (b) (Court of Claims Act 8; Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d 201 [2003]; Davis v State of New York, 64 AD3d 1197 [4th Dept 2009], lv denied 66 AD3d 1504 [4th Dept 2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 717 [2010]). "Because suits against the State are allowed only by the State's waiver of sovereign immunity and in derogation of the common law, statutory requirements conditioning suit must be strictly construed" (Dreger v New York State Thruway Auth., 81 NY2d 721, 724 [1992]).

Section 11(b) of the Court of Claims Act requires that a claim state "the time when and the place where such claim arose, the nature of same, and the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and . . . the total sum claimed." "Failure to abide by these pleading requirements constitutes a jurisdictional defect mandating dismissal of the claim, even though this may be a harsh result" (Sommer v State of New York, 131 AD3d 757, 758 [3d Dept 2015], quoting Morra v State of New York, 107 AD3d 1115, 1116 [3d Dept 2013]; see also Dinerman v NYS Lottery, 69 AD3d 1145, 1146 [2010], lv dismissed 15 NY3d 911 [2010]; Nasir v State of New York, 41 AD3d 677 [2d Dept 2007]; Mujica v State of New York, 24 AD3d 898 [3d Dept 2005], lv denied 7 NY3d 701 [2006]). The guiding principle in determining the adequacy of a claim is whether it is sufficiently definite " 'to enable the State . . . to investigate the claim[s] promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances' . . ." (Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d at 207, quoting Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d 767, 767 [1980]). While pleading with "absolute exactness" is not required, a cause of action must be pled with sufficient specificity so as not to mislead, deceive or prejudice the rights of the State (Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d at 767). Here, defendant contends that the allegations in the claim are insufficiently specific to meet this standard because no facts are alleged which would enable the defendant to determine its liability for the claim. The Court agrees.

The allegations in the claim are entirely conclusory and fail to set forth facts from which the defendant could discern either the place or date the claim accrued. While claimant alleges he was confined for a period of 93 days, he does not allege the date his punitive confinement commenced or the date he was released from such confinement. Inasmuch as a wrongful confinement cause of action accrues when the confinement terminates (Burks v State of New York, 119 AD3d 1302 [3d Dept 2014]; Davis v State of New York, 89 AD3d 1287, 1287 [3d Dept 2011]; Conner v State of New York, 268 AD2d 706 [3d Dept 2000]), claimant's failure to allege the date his disciplinary confinement ended renders the claim jurisdictionally defective. Without this information, defendant is unable to determine, based upon the allegations in the claim alone, whether or not the claim was timely served and filed. Defendant is not required "to ferret out or assemble information that section 11(b) obligates the claimant to allege" (Lepkowski, 1 NY3d at 208).

Moreover, the State is immune from liability for the discretionary determinations of its Hearing Officers and claimant failed to allege a violation of one of the governing due process safeguards (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 221 [1988]; Loret v State of New York, 106 AD3d 1159 [3d Dept 2013], lv denied 22 NY3d 852 [2013]; Shannon v. State of New York, 111 AD3d 1077 [3d Dept 2013]).

Accordingly, defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

April 24, 2018

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of motion dated March 12, 2018;
  2. Affirmation of Paul F. Cagino, Esq., dated March 12, 2018 with Exhibits A and B.