Motion to dismiss Claim alleging sexual misconduct against individual granted; the Claim solely alleges wrongful conduct committed by an individual in a personal and individual capacity and fails to state how the State was responsible for or involved in the alleged wrongdoing; Court's order to show cause vacated.
Pro se Claimant J.L.B.(2) filed this Claim pursuant to the Child Victims Act on November 18, 2019. The Claim alleges that Defendant Quinevere McAnney, an alleged employee of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, among other things, sexually abused Claimant in or about June 1992, while he was a minor. No answer to the Claim has been filed.
By Order to Show Cause, dated January 2, 2020 and filed on January 8, 2020, the Court noted that Claimant may have failed to comply with the service requirements of Section 11 of the Court of Claims Act (M-95079).(3) Consequently the Court, directed the parties to submit, in writing, a statement relating to service of this Claim, making reference to and including copies of any relevant documentary evidence regarding service. The Order to Show Cause also stated that, if the State wished to assert that the Claim was not served on the New York State Attorney General, it should submit a sworn statement to that effect from "an individual with personal knowledge of the contents of files and records of the Department of Law."
Claimant responded to the Order to Show Cause by letter dated January 29, 2020, stating that, on January 13, 2020, after he received the Order to Show Cause, he "sent the Defendant and the Attorney General [a copy of the Claim], both by certified mail/return receipt"and had "since got back the hard green card, but without a signature or stamp, indicating that it was received" (Claimant's Letter, dated January 29, 2020).
In response to the Order to Show Cause, the State moves to dismiss the Claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2), (a) (7), (a) (8) and Court of Claims Act §§ 9 (2) and 10 (b) (M-95358). In particular, the State argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Ms. McAnney, the individually named Defendant, and that the Claim fails to articulate any facts attributing Ms. McAnney's conduct to the State or specify how the State was involved (see Affirmation of Ray A. Kyles, Esq., Assistant Attorney General ¶¶ 6-8). Claimant has not contested the State's motion to dismiss.
The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction, charged with "exclusive jurisdiction over actions for money damages against the state," based upon the acts or omissions of its agencies or employees, where the State is the real party in interest (Monreal v New York State Dept. of Health, 38 AD3d 1118, 1119 [3d Dept 2007]; see NY Const, art VI, § 9; Court of Claims Act § 9; Woodward v State of New York, 23 AD3d 852, 855-856 [3d Dept 2005], lv dismissed 6 NY3d 807 ).
It is well settled that this Court's limited jurisdiction does not extend to claims against individual defendants (see Court of Claims Act § 9; Smith v State of New York, 72 AD2d 937, 938 [4th Dept 1979] ["the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is limited and does not extend to claims against individuals"]; Spirles v Woodworth, UID No. 2008-044-523 [Ct Cl, Schaewe, J., Mar. 7, 2008] [dismissing claim against individual correction officers for lack of jurisdiction]; Antonecchia v Goord, UID No. 2006-010-030 [Ct Cl, Ruderman, J., Sept. 18, 2006] [dismissing claim against Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services and another individually named defendant for lack of jurisdiction]). Consequently, Quinevere McAnney is not a proper Defendant in the Court of Claims.
Additionally, the Claim fails to state a cause of action against the State. "A suit against a State officer will be held to be one which is really asserted against the State when it arises from actions . . . of the officer made in his or her official role and involves rights asserted, not against the officer individually, but solely against the State" (Morell v Balasubramanian, 70 NY2d 297, 301 ). "If, however, the [state] officer's conduct is a breach of an individual duty and not in the exercise of an official governmental function, then the State is not the real party in interest" (Woodward, 23 AD3d at 856; see also Gore v Kuhlman, 217 AD2d 890, 891 [3d Dept 1995] ["(i)t is well settled that conduct which occurs during the course of employment will not be considered to have occurred within the scope of employment if, for purely personal reasons unrelated to the employer's interests, the employee engages in conduct which is a substantial departure from the normal methods of performing his duties"]; Bouffard v Lewis, 139 Misc 2d 786, 788 [Sup Ct, Albany County 1988] [State of New York is not the real party in interest where the claim "arises from actions of [the individual state employee defendants] not made in any official role and asserts a cause of action against [the defendants] individually for conduct specifically outside the parameters of their employment"]).
The Claim solely alleges wrongful conduct committed by Ms. McAnney in a personal and individual capacity and fails to state how the State was responsible for or involved in the alleged wrongdoing (see J.A.B. v State of New York, UID No. 2016-015-135 [Ct Cl, Collins, J., May 17, 2016] ["(a) sexual assault perpetrated by (a DOCCS) employee is not, however, an act in furtherance of the employer's business 'and is a clear departure from the scope of employment, having been committed for wholly personal motives'" (quoting N.X. v Cabrini Med. Ctr., 97 NY2d 247, 251 )]). Accordingly, the Claim must be dismissed in its entirety.
In light of the foregoing, the Court need not address the State's remaining contentions which are academic.
Accordingly, it is hereby:
ORDERED that the State's Motion No. M-95358 is granted and Claim No. 133989 is dismissed in its entirety; and it is further
ORDERED that, in light of the foregoing, the Court's Motion No. M-95079 is vacated.
October 8, 2020
Albany, New York
CATHERINE E. LEAHY-SCOTT
Judge of the Court of Claims
The Court has considered the following in deciding this motion:
(1) Order to Show Cause dated January 2, 2020 and filed January 8, 2020.
(2) Notice of Motion to Dismiss Claim, dated February 26, 2020.
(3) Affirmation of Ray A. Kyles, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, dated February 26, 2020 and the exhibits attached thereto.
(4) Claimant's Letter, dated January 29, 2020.
(5) Claimant's Letter, dated March 1, 2020.
(6) Claimant's Letter, dated September 6, 2020.
2. By letter dated March 1, 2020, Claimant advised that Andrew F. Plasse, Esq. would be representing him in the defense of these motions. To date, Mr. Plasse has not filed a notice of appearance in relation to this Claim and/or motions.
3. By Executive Order 202 et seq., Governor Andrew M. Cuomo extended the tolling of "any specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding, as prescribed by the procedural laws of the state" until October 4, 2020. The parties have consented to a return date of October 7, 2020 for the above motions.
|Claimant short name:||J.L.B.|
|Footnote (claimant name) :||Because this Claim involves an alleged victim of a sexual offense, the caption has been amended to give Claimant a fictitious name in order to protect his idenity (see Civil Rights Law § 50-b).|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Judge:||CATHERINE E. LEAHY-SCOTT|
|Claimant's attorney:||J.B.L., Pro Se|
|Defendant's attorney:||Hon. Letitia James State Attorney General
By: Ray A. Kyles, Esq. Assistant Attorney General
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||October 8, 2020|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|