Court: Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York
Case: Browne v. New York City Transit Authority
Date: Dec. 27, 2011
From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Queens;Queens accident attorney)
Comment: Plaintiff had an accident, but it’s not clear what type of accident or what the injuries were. As I’ve blogged before, to sue a municipality such as New York City or New York City Transit Authority, an accident victim must serve a “notice of claim” within 90 days. This is intended to give the municipality a chance to investigate early on. Also, the deadline to sue a municipality (statute of limitations) is shorter than against a “civilian” – only one year and 90 days, rather than the customary three years.
In this case, the accident victim (or her attorneys) blew the 90-day deadline to serve a proper notice of claim. The attorneys then asked the court to let them correct the mistake, but made this request after the statute of limitations deadline (one year and 90 days) had expired. Too little, too late, holds the appeals court. Plaintiff can’t sue for this accident. Except maybe she can sue her attorneys, if the mistakes are the attorneys’ fault.
In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the plaintiff appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Sherman, J.), dated December 15, 2010, which granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to serve a timely notice of claim pursuant to General Municipal Law Sec. 50 e(5) and denied her cross motion to deem the notice of claim timely served nunc pro tunc.
ORDERED that the order is affirmed, with costs.
The plaintiff's late service of a notice of claim upon the defendant was a nullity, as it was made without leave of the court (see Ellman v. Village of Rhinebeck, 27 A.D.3d 414, 415, 810 N.Y.S.2d 664; Alston v. Aversano, 24 A.D.3d 399, 805 N.Y.S.2d 117; Pierre v. City of New York, 22 A.D.3d 733, 804 N.Y.S.2d 365). Furthermore, since the plaintiff cross-moved to deem the notice of claim timely served nunc pro tunc after the one-year and 90 day statute of limitations had expired, the Supreme Court did not have the authority to grant such relief (see General Municipal Law Sec. 50 e; Sec. 50 i; Pierson v. City of New York, 56 N.Y.2d 950, 954, 453 N.Y.S.2d 615, 439 N.E.2d 331; Argudo v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 81 A.D.3d 575, 576 577, 916 N.Y.S.2d 143; Ellman v. Village of Rhinebeck, 27 A.D.3d at 415, 810 N.Y.S.2d 664; Friedman v. City of New York, 19 A.D.3d 542, 543, 796 N.Y.S.2d 529; Small v. New York City Tr. Auth., 14 A.D.3d 690, 691, 789 N.Y.S.2d 229).
The plaintiff contends that the defendant was estopped from moving to dismiss the complaint based on her failure to serve a timely notice of claim. Equitable estoppel against a public corporation will lie only when the conduct of the public corporation was calculated to or negligently did mislead or discourage a party from serving a timely notice of claim, and when that conduct was justifiably relied upon by that party (see Bender v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 38 N.Y.2d 662, 668, 382 N.Y.S.2d 18, 345 N.E.2d 561; Dier v. Suffolk County Water Auth., 84 A.D.3d 861, 862, 923 N.Y.S.2d 847; Dorce v. United Rentals N. Am., Inc., 78 A.D.3d 1110, 1111, 915 N.Y.S.2d 79; Vandermast v. New York City Tr. Auth., 71 A.D.3d 1127, 896 N.Y.S.2d 910; Wade v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 16 A.D.3d 677, 793 N.Y.S.2d 68). Here, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the defendant engaged in any misleading conduct that would support a finding of equitable estoppel (see Dier v. Suffolk County Water Auth., 84 A.D.3d at 862, 923 N.Y.S.2d 847; Dorce v. United Rentals N. Am., Inc., 78 A.D.3d at 1111, 915 N.Y.S.2d 79; Vandermast v. New York City Tr. Auth., 71 A.D.3d at 1128, 896 N.Y.S.2d 910). The letter by the defendant informing the plaintiff of a defect in the form of the notice of claim did not constitute conduct that would warrant an estoppel (see Vandermast v. New York City Tr. Auth., 71 A.D.3d at 1127, 1128, 896 N.Y.S.2d 910; Walter H. Poppe Gen. Contr., Inc. v. Town of Ramapo, 280 A.D.2d 667, 668, 721 N.Y.S.2d 248).