New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HILL v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-040-041, Claim No. 134594, Motion Nos. M-95732, M-95805

Synopsis

State's Motion to dismiss granted as Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Claimant should have brought an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court.

Case information

UID: 2020-040-041
Claimant(s): DERRICK HILL
Claimant short name: HILL
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 134594
Motion number(s): M-95732, M-95805
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: CHRISTOPHER J. McCARTHY
Claimant's attorney: Derrick Hill, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: LETITIA JAMES
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Christina Calabrese, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: December 1, 2020
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion (M-95732) to dismiss the Claim pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(2) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted. Claimant's Motion (M-95805) for summary judgment in his favor is denied as moot.

This pro se Claim, which was filed in the office of the Clerk of the Court on March 10, 2020, alleges that Claimant is an inmate at Franklin Correctional Facility and that, beginning on August 27,(1) he started working in the facility mess hall. He asserts that he is not being paid the correct wage for his work (Claim, 2). He filed a grievance regarding the matter. He received a response from the Inmate Grievance Review Committee denying his grievance, finding that his pay is appropriate pursuant to the guidelines set forth in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (hereinafter, "DOCCS") Food Service Operations Manual (Ex. A attached to Claim).

Defendant asserts that the Claim seeks to have the Court review administrative determinations of DOCCS and that the Court lacks jurisdiction to do so. Claimant has not submitted any opposition to Defendant's Motion, other than to make his own motion seeking summary judgment (M-95805).

"As a court of limited jurisdiction, the Court of Claims has no jurisdiction to grant strictly equitable relief" (Madura v State of New York, 12 AD3d 759, 760 [3d Dept 2004], lv denied 4 NY3d 704 [2005], citing to Ozanam Hall of Queens Nursing Home v State of New York, 241 AD2d 670, 671 [3d Dept 1997]; see also Psaty v Duryea, 306 NY 413, 416 [1954]).

Therefore, as the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, stated in Green v State of New York (90 AD3d 1577, 1578 [2011], lv denied 18 NY3d 901 [2012]):

In determining whether the Court of Claims has subject matter jurisdiction over a claim, the initial question is "[w]hether the essential nature of the claim is to recover money, or whether the monetary relief is incidental to the primary claim" (Matter of Gross v Perales, 72 NY2d 231, 236 [1988], rearg denied 72 NY2d 1042 [1988]; see Buonanotte v New York State Off. of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Servs., 60 AD3d 1142, [1143] [(3d Dept) 2009], lv denied 12 NY3d 712 [2009]; Sarbo IX v State of N.Y., Off. of Gen. Servs., 229 AD2d 910, 911 [(4th Dept) 1996]. Regardless of how a claim is characterized, one that requires, as a threshold matter, the review of an administrative agency's determination falls outside the subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Claims (see Gross, [supra] at 236; Buonanotte, [supra] at 1143-1144; Matter of Salahuddin v Connell, 53 AD3d 898, 899 [(3d Dept) 2008]).

In order for Claimant to recover damages on his Claim, the Court would have to examine and reverse the administrative actions of DOCCS regarding the level of pay Claimant was entitled to receive for his work in the mess hall. The jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is limited to awarding damages in tort or contract and does not extend to the review of discretionary determinations of State agencies (Lantry v State of New York, UID 2001-001-027 [Ct Cl, Read, J., June 28, 2001]). "If the award of a money judgment must be preceded by overturning and annulling a determination of an administrative agency then the primary relief sought is not money damages" (Ouziel v State of New York, 174 Misc 2d 900, 905 [Ct Cl 1997]). Claimant should have challenged the determination of DOCCS by way of a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 in Supreme Court. It is well settled that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction of a Claim where the primary relief sought is obtainable in an Article 78 proceeding, regardless of how the Claim is characterized (Guy v State of New York, 18 AD3d 936, 937 [3d Dept 2005]).

Based upon the foregoing, Defendant's Motion to dismiss on the basis that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the Claim is granted and the Claim is hereby dismissed.

Based upon the fact, as set forth above, that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the Claim and dismissed the Claim, Claimant's Motion for summary judgment in his favor (M-95805) is denied as moot.

December 1, 2020

Albany, New York

CHRISTOPHER J. McCARTHY

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read and considered by the Court on Defendant's Motion to dismiss and Claimant's Motion for summary judgment:

Papers Numbered

Motion M-95732

Notice of Motion, Affirmation in Support,

and Exhibit Attached 1

Claimant's Answering Statement(2) 2

Motion M-95805

Notice of Motion, Statement 1

"Amend" Motion 2

Affirmation in Opposition

and Exhibit Attached 3

Supplemental Affirmation in

Opposition and Exhibits Attached 4

Filed Papers: Claim


1. Claimant does not provide the year, however, the Claim was verified on July 22, 2019 and served upon Defendant in August 2020 (The Received date is not clear enough to determine the exact date.). Thus, Claimant must be referring to August 27, 2018.

2. Claimant labels the document an Affidavit, however, it is not notarized.