New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SPIRLES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-038-534, Claim No. 124465, Motion No. M-90841, Cross-Motion Nos. CM-91124, CM-91460

Synopsis

Lack of compliance with the pleading requirements is basis for granting defendant's cross motion for lack of jurisdiction. Claimant's motion to compel production of discovery materials and his cross motion for summary judgment are denied as moot.

Case information

UID: 2018-038-534
Claimant(s): WILLIE SPIRLES
Claimant short name: SPIRLES
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 124465
Motion number(s): M-90841
Cross-motion number(s): CM-91124, CM-91460
Judge: W. BROOKS DeBOW
Claimant's attorney: WILLIE SPIRLES, Pro se
Defendant's attorney: ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General
of the State of New York
By: Heather R. Rubinstein, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 6, 2018
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an individual incarcerated in a State correctional facility, filed this claim alleging that defendant's agents were negligent in failing to protect claimant from retaliatory actions taken by corrections personnel. Claimant seeks an order compelling defendant to respond to his discovery demands (Motion No. M-90841), which defendant opposes. Defendant cross-moves for dismissal of the claim on the ground that it is jurisdictionally defective and fails to state a cause of action (Motion No. CM-91124). Claimant opposes defendant's cross motion with a cross motion seeking summary judgment (Motion No. CM-91460), to which defendant has not responded.

Defendant's cross motion to dismiss will be addressed first, as it implicates the threshold issue of the Court's jurisdiction over the claim. The claim alleges that claimant filed an institutional grievance against Nurse Hayes in July 2013, in which he asserted that she was selling his medication to other inmates in exchange for cigarettes. The claim alleges that claimant made a complaint about Hayes to Superintendent Lee on January 6, 2014, to which Hospital Supervisor Bernstein responded on March 7, 2014. The claim further alleges that claimant complained to Bernstein on March 13, 2014 about "the problems [Hayes] was having [claimant] go through with my health care provider Mrs. Walsh" (Claim number 124465, 5). The claim alleges that on April 2, 2014, claimant filed a grievance against Correction Officer (CO) Thomas, an associate of Nurse Hayes, because she had three male officers verbally threaten him and warn him to "stop or else you know whats [sic] coming" (id. 6). The claim alleges that after returning from vacation on May 13, 2014, Nurse Hayes read all of claimant's grievances against her and then falsified charges against claimant and had him confined pending a Tier III disciplinary proceeding. The claim further alleges that on May 17, 2014, at the behest of Nurse Hayes, CO Smith stated that he found a scalpel blade under claimant's feed up slot while claimant was in "keylock" recreation (id., 9-10). The claim asserts that Superintendent Lee was negligent for failing to protect claimant from retaliation by Hayes and other corrections personnel, and it seeks monetary compensation for claimant having to forego a religious event and medications, and for every day that he was confined on the falsified misbehavior reports.

Defendant argues that the claim is jurisdictionally defective and fails to state a cause of action because it does not comply with the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act  11 (b). Specifically, defendant argues that the claim "is written in a disjointed and confusing fashion, replete with confusing and conclusory allegations, which fail to satisfy even the minimal requirements of particularity required by Court of Claims Act 11(b)" (Rubinstein Affirmation, 14). Defendant further contends that the claim "lacks a clear statement of what occurred on the date of accrual, such that the reader cannot discern the alleged wrongs or the legal basis for the allegations in the Claim" and that it "fails to sufficiently or clearly state the factual basis for the claim or the legal basis of defendant's liability" and must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (id., 15). Claimant makes no substantive argument in opposition to defendant's argument that the pleading is jurisdictionally defective, opposing defendant's cross motion with his own cross motion for affirmative relief by way of summary judgment.

Court of Claims Act  11 (b) requires, among other things, that "[t]he claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, [and] the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained." The pleading must set forth sufficient facts to satisfy each of the pleading requirements set forth in Court of Claims Act  11 (b) (see Kolnacki v State of New York, 8 NY3d 277, 280-281 [2007]), and the failure to do so is a fatal defect in subject matter jurisdiction that requires dismissal of the claim (see Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d 201, 209 [2003]; Kolnacki, at 281). While it has been stated that substantial compliance with this pleading requirement is sufficient (see Wharton v City Univ. of N.Y., 287 AD2d 559, 559-560 [2d Dept 2001], quoting Grumet v State of New York, 256 AD2d 441, 442 [2d Dept 1998]), and "absolute exactness is not required, the claim must provide a sufficiently detailed description of the particulars of the claim . . . [and] defendant is not required to ferret out or assemble information that section 11 (b) obligates the claimant to allege" (Morra v State of New York, 107 AD3d 1115, 1115-1116 [3d Dept 2013] [internal quotations and citations omitted]).

Even when given the liberal review accorded to submissions of pro se litigants (see Ali v State of New York, UID No. 2006-028-516 [Ct Cl, Sise, P.J., Feb. 7, 2006]), this disjointed and confusing pleading is manifestly non-compliant with Court of Claims Act 11 (b). The claim fails to identify the correctional facility where the claim arose, and it fails to plead the time and place of the alleged retaliatory acts, the dates of the allegedly falsified inmate misbehavior reports and the Tier III hearings that were conducted thereon, and the dates of claimant's confinement. The claim contains only conclusory and general allegations of negligence and it lacks the particularity required by Court of Claims Act  11 (b) to enable defendant to investigate and ascertain its liability. Accordingly, the claim is jurisdictionally defective and must be dismissed.

In light of the dismissal of the claim for lack of jurisdiction, claimant's motion (M-90841) and cross motion (CM-91460) are moot and need not be addressed.

Accordingly, it is

ORDERED, that defendant's cross motion number CM-91124 is GRANTED and claim number 124465 is DISMISSED; and it is further

ORDERED, that claimant's motion number M-90841 is DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED, that claimant's cross motion number CM-91460 is DENIED.

April 6, 2018

Saratoga Springs, New York

W. BROOKS DeBOW

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers considered:

(1) Claim number 124465, filed June 2, 2014;

(2) Verified Answer, filed June 24, 2014;

(3) Notice of Motion (M-90841), filed July 28, 2017;

(4) Affidavit of Willie Spirles in Support of Motion to Compel (M-90841), sworn to

July 25, 2017;

(5) Notice of Cross Motion (CM-91124), dated September 21, 2017;

(6) Affirmation of Heather R. Rubinstein, AAG, in Support of Cross Motion to Dismiss,

dated September 21, 2017, with Exhibits A-G;

(7) Response of Willie Spirles to Defendant's Opposition and Cross Motion and Cross Motion

for Summary Judgment (CM-91460), dated November 16, 2017, with Exhibits B-C [sic];

(8) Affidavit of Service of Willie Spirles of Cross Motion (CM-91460), unsworn and dated

November 25, 2017.