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CELLI v. METRO-NORTH COMMUTER R.R.

June 21, 1995

EUGENE CELLI AND WENDY LIU, Plaintiffs, against METRO-NORTH COMMUTER RAILROAD and THE METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Defendants.

JOHN G. KOELTL, United States District Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN G. KOELTL

JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge:

 The defendants, Metro-North Commuter Railroad ("Metro-North") and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("MTA"), have moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that the claims are barred under the applicable Statute of Limitations. For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion is granted.

 The plaintiffs' complaint arises out of injuries Mr. Celli allegedly suffered while he was disembarking from a train at the Peekskill train station on December 28, 1993. Mr. Celli claims that he was injured when the train moved without warning while he was disembarking, causing him to fall. The plaintiffs provided a notice of claim to the MTA dated February 28, 1994 that the defendants say they received on or about March 8, 1994. The plaintiffs filed their summons and complaint on March 8, 1995 in this Court alleging that Mr. Celli suffered injuries caused by the negligence and carelessness of the defendants and that Ms. Liu, who is Mr. Celli's wife, has suffered a loss of services and companionship as a result of the injuries the defendants' negligence allegedly caused her husband.

 The parties agree that New York law provides the applicable statute of limitations in this diversity case. See Monaghan v. SZS Assocs., 827 F. Supp. 233, 241 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) (Sweet, J.) (a federal court must apply the substantive law of the forum state under Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 85 L. Ed. 1477, 61 S. Ct. 1020 (1941), including the statute of limitations unless the borrowing statute applies). However, they do not agree on which provision of New York law supplies the applicable statute of limitations.

 The defendants argue that Public Authorities Law § 1276 provides the applicable statute of limitations. This statute provides, in relevant part:

 
§ 1276. Actions against the authority.
 
1. As a condition to the consent of the state to such suits against the authority, in every action against the authority . . . for personal injuries . . ., the complaint shall contain an allegation that at least thirty days have elapsed since the demand, claim or claims upon which such action is founded were presented to a member of the authority or other officer designated for such purpose and that the authority has neglected or refused to make an adjustment or payment thereof.
 
2. An action against the authority founded on tort, except an action for wrongful death, shall not be commenced more than one year after the cause of action therefor shall have accrued, nor unless a notice of claim shall have been served on the authority within the time limited by and in compliance with all the requirements of section fifty-e of the general municipal law. An action against the authority for wrongful death shall be commenced in accordance with the notice of claim and time limitation provisions of title eleven of article nine of this chapter. . . .
 
6. The provisions of this section which relate to the requirement for service of a notice of claim shall not apply to a subsidiary corporation of the authority. In all other respects, each subsidiary corporation of the authority shall be subject to the provisions of this section as if such subsidiary corporation were separately named herein . . . .

 N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law § 1276 (McKinney 1982 & Supp. 1995). Under subsections (1) and (2) of § 1276, a claim must be filed within one year and thirty days of the accrual of the cause of action. See Rose v. Metro North Commuter R.R., 143 A.D.2d 993, 994, 533 N.Y.S.2d 629, 630-31 (2d Dep't 1988) ("By operation of CPLR 204(a), the statutory stay of Public Authorities Law § 1276(1) tolls the limitations set forth in Public Authorities Law § 1276(2) for 30 days. Thus, the net limitation period governing the action against Metro North and the MTA is one year and 30 days.") (citations omitted), appeal dismissed, 73 N.Y.2d 994, 538 N.E.2d 357, 540 N.Y.S.2d 1005 (1989).

 In this case, the statute of limitations began to run on the date of the alleged accident -- December 28, 1993. See Jackson v. L.P. Transp., Inc., 134 A.D.2d 661, 662, 521 N.Y.S.2d 172, 173 (3d Dep't 1987) ("The common-law rule in personal injury actions is that the cause of action accrues on the date of the accident.") (citations omitted), aff'd, 72 N.Y.2d 975, 530 N.E.2d 1282, 534 N.Y.S.2d 362 (1988); see also Triangle Underwriters, Inc. v. Honeywell, Inc., 604 F.2d 737, 744 (2d Cir. 1979) ("A [negligence] cause of action accrues when acts or omissions constituting negligence produce injury.") (citation omitted). In this case, the statute of limitations of § 1276 expired on January 27, 1995, one year and thirty days after the date of the alleged accident. The plaintiffs filed their complaint on March 8, 1995 -- forty days later. Accordingly, the defendants argue that the plaintiffs' claims are time-barred and that the Court should dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint. The plaintiffs agreed at oral argument that, if § 1276 applies, their complaint is time-barred.

 First, the plaintiffs argue that § 1276 of the public Authorities law does not apply. Second, they argue that even if § 1276 does apply, the defendants are estopped from invoking it in this case. Third, the plaintiffs argue that the Court should not apply § 1276 in the interest of justice. Fourth, the plaintiffs argue that § 1276 violates the Equal protection clause of the Constitution. Fifth and finally, the plaintiffs argue that § 1276 is unconstitutionally vague. None of these arguments has any merit.

 First, with respect to whether § 1276 of the Public Authorities law applies, the plaintiffs argue that the defendants are municipal corporations and that, therefore, General Municipal Law § 50-i provides the applicable statute of limitations for their claims. That provision contains a one year and ninety day statute of limitations. The plaintiffs argue that § 1276 of the Public Authorities Law ...


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