Monday, February 11, 2013

NY's Uniform Notice of Claim Act

In December, Governor Cuomo signed the Uniform Notice of Claim Act, which was not subject to much (if any) debate in the Legislature.

This law, among other things:

Adds CPLR 217-a:  making statute of limitations 1 year and 90 days for "every action for damages or injuries to real or personal property, or for the destruction thereof, or for personal injuries or wrongful death, against any political subdivision of the state . . . " 

Adds General Municipal Law sections 50-e(3)(f) and 53:  which permits claimants to either serve the NOC on the public entity (as is the case now) or to serve the NY Secretary of State, who may charge a fee of up to $250 and who will transfer the NOC to the named entities within ten days. 

Media accounts state the the sponsors of the bill signed by the Governor were seeking to "demystify" the NOC process to avoid meritorious claims being dismissed based on "technicalities."  It is not clear, however, that this law accomplishes that.  Any "technicalities" in a NOC that will result in dismissal will continue to remain fatal because Section 53(1) notes in relevant part that "[a]ll the requirements relating to the form, content, time limitations, exceptions, extensions, and any other procedural requirements imposed [under 50-e] . . . shall correspondingly apply to a notice of claim served upon the secretary of state as permitted by this section."

Moreover, if a claimant names the wrong entity (i.e., the Port Authority versus the City of New York), then serving the wrong entity via the NYSOS will not do anything to cure the problem. 

The NYSOS is allowed to charge up to $250 per NOC (and to split it with the named entities IF they have provided the NYSOS with "current and timely statutory designation" for service).  It would seem likely that parties serving a NOC will continue to do so in the normal course to save the fee, especially because many NOC's never ripen into a suit -- and because service via the NYSOS does not appear to do anything to "demystify" the NOC process.  Rather, it adds, at claimant's option, another layer of bureaucracy that delays notice to the municipality -- thus undermining the purpose of the NOC statutes (i.e., giving public entities timely notice of a claim in order to investigate the claim).  The NOC process becomes less efficient while giving claimants little, if any, additional benefit.

Despite its name, the Act does not appear to make the NOC process any more uniform than it already is.


At 3:36 PM, Blogger Brian and Carly said...

Not to mention that even if a NOC is served late, the courts are extremely liberal in granting leave to serve a late NOC. Such routine practice has weakened the benefit of the law to municipalities and their taxpayers (i.e., to allow timely investigation and avoid stale claims).


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