New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
KOWALOWSKI v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-041-054, Claim No. 131160, Motion No. M-92206

Synopsis

Defendant's motion to dismiss claim in lieu of answer on the ground that notice of intention to file a claim and claim each allegedly failed to adequately state the nature of the claim, as required by Court of Claims Act 11 (b), is denied.

Case information

UID: 2018-041-054
Claimant(s): MORGAN L. KOWALOWSKI
Claimant short name: KOWALOWSKI
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) : The caption is amended to state the proper defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 131160
Motion number(s): M-92206
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANK P. MILANO
Claimant's attorney: STAFFORD, OWENS, PILLER, MURNANE, KELLEHER, AND TROMBLEY PLLC
By: Justin R. Meyer, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: HON. BARBARA D. UNDERWOOD
New York State Attorney General
By: Paul F. Cagino, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: July 31, 2018
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Defendant moves, in lieu of answering, to dismiss the amended claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) and Court of Claims Act 11 (b), asserting that the Court lacks jurisdiction because claimant, in both the notice of intention to file a claim and in the amended claim itself, failed to "specify the particular 'nature of' such claim." Claimant opposes the defendant's motion.

Defendant argues that the notice of intention to file a claim and the amended claim fail to set forth the nature of the claim as required by Court of Claims Act 11 (b), thus depriving the Court of jurisdiction. Specifically, defendant argues that the notice of intention to file a claim, and the amended claim, fail "to allege with any specificity how defendant was negligent and how such negligence was a proximate cause of the alleged accident."

Court of Claims Act 11 (b) provides that:

" The claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and, except in an action to recover damages for personal injury, medical, dental or podiatric malpractice or wrongful death, the total sum claimed . . . The notice of intention to file a claim shall set forth the same matters except that the items of damage or injuries and the sum claimed need not be stated."

A claim against the State is permissible only as a result of the State's waiver of sovereign immunity and the statutory requirements conditioning suit must therefore be strictly construed (Kolnacki v State of New York 8 NY3d 277, 280 [2007]). The Kolnacki court noted that the requirements of section 11 (b) are "substantive conditions upon the State's waiver of sovereign immunity" (quoting Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d 201, 207 [2003]) and that the failure to satisfy any of the conditions is a jurisdictional defect (Kolnacki, 8 NY3d at 280-281). The Kolnacki decision stresses that "nothing less than strict compliance with the jurisdictional requirements of the Court of Claims Act is necessary" (Kolnacki, 8 NY3d at 281).

The standard of review in assessing whether a claim complies with section 11 (b) as to adequately stating the nature of the claim is well-settled:

"What is required is not absolute exactness, but simply a statement made with sufficient definiteness to enable the State to be able to investigate the claim promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances. The statement must be specific enough so as not to mislead, deceive or prejudice the rights of the State. In short, substantial compliance with section 11 is what is required . . . . Conclusory or general allegations of negligence that fail to adduce the manner in which the claimant was injured and how the State was negligent do not meet its requirements" (Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d 767, 768 [4th Dept 1980]; see Cendales v State of New York, 2 AD3d 1165, 1167 [3d Dept 2003]; Sega v State of New York, 246 AD2d 753, 755 [3d Dept 1998], lv denied 92 NY2d 805 [1998]).

The notice of intention to file a claim and the amended claim allege that the defendant was negligent with respect to its design, construction and maintenance of the state highway intersection at which claimant's vehicle was struck by a vehicle operated by a third party.

Among other specific and detailed allegations, the notice of intention to file a claim and the amended claim allege the following acts of negligence by defendant:

"(a) Failing to provide proper warnings of an intersection;

(b) Failing to properly design a safe intersection;

(c) Failing to properly construct a safe intersection;

(d) Failing to provide proper notices of an intersection;

(e) Failing to provide proper speed limit notifications;

(f) Failing to provide proper stop signs;

(g) Failing to provide proper safety measures and warnings on the highway;

(h) Failing to provide a safe intersection despite notice of numerous accidents occurring at the intersection;

(i) and Failing to properly monitor and maintain the intersection in question."

The notice of intention to file a claim further alleges that the accident was caused by the third party driver's failure "to stop at the stop sign at the above-described intersection which caused the collision, and resulting in severe injuries" to claimant.

The amended claim further alleges that the accident was caused by the "dangerous and defective conditions of the said roadways" and that defendant "knew, or should have known of the dangerous and defective conditions of the subject roadways, as there have been multiple collisions and other motor vehicle injury accidents in the months and years preceding the Claimant's injuries."

The amended claim also contained exhibits, including a New York State Police Accident Report, a document titled "Details of Accident History for Location," as well as "[p]hotographs of the subject intersection."

After careful review, the Court finds that the allegations of the notice of intention to file a claim and the amended claim were, and are, sufficiently specific and definite to enable the defendant to investigate the claim promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances and, additionally, are specific enough not to mislead or deceive the defendant or prejudice the defendant's rights.

The notice of intention to file a claim and the amended claim adequately comply with the substantive pleading requirements of section 11 (b) of the Court of Claims Act. The defendant's motion to dismiss the claim is denied.

July 31, 2018

Albany, New York

FRANK P. MILANO

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Defendant's Notice of Motion to Dismiss in Lieu of Answer, filed April 30, 2018;

2. Affirmation of Paul F. Cagino, dated April 30, 2018, and attached exhibits;

3. Affirmation in Opposition of Justin R. Meyer, dated May 16, 2018.