New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
MAHMOOD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-015-073, Claim No. 134432, Motion No. M-95631

Synopsis

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

Case information

UID: 2020-015-073
Claimant(s): MOHAMMED SAYEED MAHMOOD
Claimant short name: MAHMOOD
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 134432
Motion number(s): M-95631
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: No Appearance
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Anthony Rotondi, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: September 2, 2020
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) on the ground the claim fails to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b) or otherwise state a cause of action.

Claimant alleged in his initial claim, filed February 10, 2020, that agents of the State stalked him and monitored his workplace from 2009-2010 (claim, 8), that U.S. Government agencies harassed him, inflicting "mental torture" and using "Mind Control" techniques (claim, 9, 11), and that after his arrival in India in December 2010, defendant, together with Indian authorities, started "systemic physical, phone, and cyber stalking the [claimant]" which continues to the present time (claim, 11). Claimant alleged that as the result of such unlawful conduct he was forced to repeatedly travel to the United States between 2011 and 2016 (claim, 13), his wife lost her immigration status (claim, 14), and defendant "incited" claimant to borrow money for his education (claim, 15), perform fraudulent money transfers (claim, 16), and submit fraudulent benefit applications (claim, 17).

In an amended claim, filed as of right on March 9, 2020, claimant again alleges he was the victim of "nonstop Electronic Surveillance and Mind control" and alleges defendant, together with Indian authorities, are subjecting him to "physical stalking, phone tapping, and cyber stalking" (defendant's Exhibit A, Doc. No. 33, Amended Claim, 3), which has rendered him permanently disabled, unemployed, and caused him to move to India and commit cyber-crimes. Claimant alleges further that defendant, together with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Indian authorities, have subjected him to harassment through unnecessary questioning and baggage checking at both United States and Indian airports (id). While the initial claim alleged the harassment and mental torture occurred from February 2002 through the present, the Amended Claim alleges the claim accrued on February 20, 2002 and continues through the present time. As for the items of damage or injuries, claimant alleges he suffered personal injury, loss of employment, loss of immigration status, loss of wages, and defamation.

The State's waiver of immunity from suit is contingent upon compliance with the specific conditions 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, 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 Kolnacki v State of New York, 8 NY3d 277 [2007], rearg denied 8 NY3d 944 [2007]; Hargrove v State of New York, 138 AD3d 777 [2d Dept 2016]; Dinerman v NYS Lottery, 69 AD3d 1145, 1146 [3d Dept 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 sufficiency 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 [4th Dept 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, first, that even if a cognizable cause of action could be gleaned from the claim, it fails to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b) because it fails to allege who is responsible for the alleged tortious conduct or the time when and place where such claims arose. The Court agrees. In both the initial and amended claims, claimant alleges no more than a campaign of harassment by the State, Federal and foreign authorities that started with an unspecified occurrence in February, 2002 and continued thereafter. Claimant's failure to allege with sufficient detail the nature of the conduct complained of and the date when and place where it occurred makes it impossible for the defendant to investigate the claim and determine its potential liability. As a result, the claim is jurisdictionally defective in that it fails to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act 11 (b). Given this determination, the Court need not decide defendant's remaining contention that the claim fails to state a cognizable cause of action.

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

September 2, 2020

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of motion dated July 6, 2020;
  2. Affirmation in support dated July 6, 2020, with Exhibit A.