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Morra v. State

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

June 6, 2013

GREGORY MORRA, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, Respondent.

Calendar Date: April 25, 2013

Basch & Keegan, LLP, Kingston (Maureen A. Keegan of counsel), for appellant.

Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General, Albany (Frank K. Walsh of counsel), for respondent.

Before: Rose, J.P., Lahtinen, Spain and Garry, JJ.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Garry, J.

Appeal from an order of the Court of Claims (Collins, J.), entered January 25, 2012, which, among other things, granted defendant's cross motion to dismiss the claim.

In February 2010, claimant filed a claim alleging, as relevant here, that he had suffered injury and harm arising from defendant's failure to properly supervise a State Police investigator in connection with a criminal prosecution of claimant, despite the fact that defendant "knew or should have known of the investigator's past bad investigations, wrongful arrests and improper use of his position." [1] Claimant moved for an order to compel an in camera inspection and disclosure of the investigator's personnel records. Defendant opposed that motion, and cross-moved pursuant to CPLR 3211 and/or 3212 for an order dismissing the claim, alleging that the notice of claim was insufficiently detailed to comply with the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b), among other things. The Court of Claims granted defendant's cross motion and dismissed the claim as jurisdictionally defective. Claimant appeals. [2]

Pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11 (b), a claim must set forth the nature of the claim, the time when and place where it arose, the damages or injuries and the total sum claimed. "Because suits against [defendant] are allowed only by [defendant's] waiver of sovereign immunity and in derogation of the common law, statutory requirements conditioning suit must be strictly construed" (Kolnacki v State of New York, 8 N.Y.3d 277, 280 [2007] [internal quotation marks, brackets and citations omitted]; see Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 N.Y.3d 201, 206-207 [2003]; Lichtenstein v State of New York, 93 N.Y.2d 911, 912-913 [1999]). Although "absolute exactness" is not required (Heisler v State of New York, 78 A.D.2d 767, 767 [1980]), the claim must "'provide a sufficiently detailed description of the particulars of the claim to enable [defendant] to investigate and promptly ascertain the existence and extent of its liability'" (Robin BB. v State of New York, 56 A.D.3d 932, 932-933 [2008], quoting Sinski v State of New York, 265 A.D.2d 319, 319 [1999]). However, defendant is not required "to ferret out or assemble information that section 11 (b) obligates the claimant to allege" (Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 N.Y.3d at 208). Failure to abide by these pleading requirements constitutes a jurisdictional defect mandating dismissal of the claim, even though this may be a harsh result (see Kolnacki v State of New York, 8 N.Y.3d at 281; Dinerman v New York State Lottery, 69 A.D.3d 1145, 1146 [2010], lv dismissed 15 N.Y.3d 911 [2010]).

Here, we agree with the Court of Claims that claimant's allegations are not specifically detailed enough to satisfy the pleading requirements. The claim omits completely any facts giving rise to or regarding the nature of the criminal charges that were brought against claimant, or specific facts regarding the State Police investigator's conduct. The time stated encompasses a two-year period beginning in "October and/or November, 2006" through "October, November and December, 2008." The general location as to where the claim allegedly arose — "Albany and Schoharie counties and in the areas surrounding in the State of New York" — encompasses at least nine counties and does not provide any specific location where any of the allegedly improper conduct occurred. As claimant's "allegations fall short of satisfying the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b)" (Robin BB. v State of New York, 56 A.D.3d at 933), the Court of Claims properly dismissed the claim.

In light of this determination, we do not address claimant's remaining contentions regarding either the merits of his claim or his motion to compel disclosure of the investigator's personnel records (see e.g. Young v State of New York [Univ. Hosp. of Brooklyn-Downstate Med. Ctr.], 82 A.D.3d 972, 973-974 [2011]; Triani v State of New York, 44 A.D.3d 1032, 1033 [2007]).

Rose, J.P., Lahtinen and Spain, JJ., concur.

ORDERED that the order is affirmed, without costs.


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