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Bunim v. City of New York

July 21, 2006

SHARONE BUNIM, ET AL., RITA KALRA, ET AL., LINDSAY RYAN, ET AL., ADRIENNE GARBINI, ET AL., ADAM GREENWALD, ET AL., BRIAN PICKETT ET AL., WENDY TREMAYNE, ET AL., DIANE WILLIAMS, ET AL., JEREMY BIDDLE, ET AL., MATTHEW MORAN, ET AL., SACHA BOTBOL, ET AL., TIFFANY BURNS, ET AL., SCOTT KERNS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

These cases are before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss for Plaintiffs' failure to timely serve the Complaints. Plaintiffs oppose the Motions primarily on the ground that they will be unduly prejudiced by dismissal. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

Plaintiffs were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention ("RNC").*fn1

These cases are related to Macnamara v. City of New York, 04-CV-9216, and accordingly, are assigned to this Court.

Each Plaintiff filed a Notice of Claim with the Comptroller of the City of New York on or before November 29, 2004.*fn2 Subsequently, each Plaintiff filed a Complaint on February 4, 2005.

The Complaints only stated federal claims. On August 26, 2005, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaints. The Amended Complaints added state law claims against Defendant Hudson River Park Trust. On November 2, 2005, process was served on the City and the Hudson River Park Trust in each action, except for Kerns. Second Amended Complaints were filed on November 23, 2005. The Second Amended Complaints added state law claims against the municipal and individually named Defendants. Plaintiffs have not served the individually named Defendants.

II. Discussion

Defendants argue that because Plaintiffs served process on them approximately five months after the deadline to serve had expired, their state law claims should be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). Plaintiffs respond that their state law claims were not ripe until after the City of New York held 50-h hearings pursuant to New York General Municipal Law § 50-h(1). Therefore, if Plaintiffs had timely served their Complaints, they would have had to amend their Complaints and re-serve after all 50-h hearings had been conducted. Moreover, Plaintiffs argue that they would suffer severe prejudice if their Complaints were dismissed because their state law claims would be time barred.

A. New York General Municipal Law

New York law requires that whenever there is a claim against a public entity or employee, a Notice of Claim must be filed within ninety days after the claim arises. N.Y. Gen. Mun. § 50-e(1)(a). Defendants do not dispute that most Plaintiffs timely filed their Notices of Claim. Once a Notice of Claim is filed, an action may be commenced. However, there are two barriers to commencing an action under New York law that apply here. First, an action cannot be commenced unless "at least thirty days have elapsed since the service of such notice and that adjustment or payment thereof has been neglected or refused." N.Y. Gen. Mun. § 50-i(1)(b). Second, the City has the "right to demand an examination of the claimant relative to the occurrence and extent of the injuries or damages for which claim is made . . . ." N.Y. Gen. Mun. § 50-h(1). This is called a 50-h hearing. Where a demand for a 50-h hearing is made, "no action shall be commenced against the city . . . unless the claimant has duly complied with such demand for examination . . . ." N.Y. Gen. Mun. § 50-h(5); see also Ambroziak v. County of Erie, 577 N.Y.S.2d 1020, 1020 (App. Div. 1991) ("It is well established that a potential plaintiff is precluded from commencing an action against a municipality until there has been compliance with section 50-h(1) of the General Municipal Law."). However, "[i]f such examination is not conducted within ninety days of service of the demand, the claimant may commence the action." N.Y. Gen. Mun. § 50-h(5); see also Ambroziak, 577 N.Y.S.2d at 1020 (holding that 50-h hearing was not a condition precedent to commencing an action where defendant requested adjournment, no date was set for rescheduled hearing, and plaintiff had never failed to appear for a hearing).

Here, Plaintiffs filed their Notices of Claim by November 29, 2004. Therefore, they were free to commence their actions on December 29, 2004. However, the City did demand 50-h hearings for the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were required to wait until after the 50-h hearings were conducted to file a claim with state causes of action, unless they were not conducted within ninety days of the demand. Plaintiffs acknowledge that 50-h hearings were conducted between March 1, 2005 and November 17, 2005, and therefore, claim that November 17, 2005 was the earliest date that they could have brought their state law claims.

However, by the date Plaintiffs were required under federal rules to effect service of process, June 2, 2005, forty-seven of the 106 Plaintiffs had indeed undergone 50-h hearings. (Decl. of Jay A. Kranis Ex. B) As of November 2, 2005 -- the date that service of process of the First Amended Complaints was effected upon the City of New York -- only nineteen Plaintiffs had not yet had 50-h hearings. (Decl. of Jay A. Kranis Ex. B) Accordingly, Plaintiffs' argument that they could not have served process until November 17, 2005 is unpersuasive for several reasons. First, Plaintiffs served process on November 2 -- fifteen days before November 17. Second, not all 50-h hearings had been conducted by November 2 or by November 17, yet process for all Plaintiffs was served anyway. Third, Plaintiffs could have timely served process for forty-seven Plaintiffs because their 50-h hearings had been conducted. Fourth and most importantly, Plaintiffs have not provided a single reason why they could not have timely served process of the original Complaints filed November 29, 2004, and ...


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