If you want to sue the State of New York (as well as certain state-related entities) for damages, the lawsuit must be brought in the New York State Court of Claims, with certain exceptions noted below. The court does not have jurisdiction over individuals, even if they are employed by the State. If a state agency is at fault, the suit should not be against the particular agency, but, rather, against the State of New York.
Where do I sue?
There are certain public authorities that are deemed to have a distinct legal existence separate and apart from the State, such that they are sued in their own names. Some of these public authorities are not sued in the Court of Claims, but in State Supreme Court, under the procedures set forth in the Public Authorities Law or in the General Municipal Law. The legislation that establishes the particular authority will indicate whether the agency should be sued in the Court of Claims or in State Supreme Court.
Lawsuits against municipal governments are brought pursuant to the General Municipal Law.
The Court of Claims does not govern actions against correctional facilities, county jails, or claims dealing with negligently maintaining town or county roads.
If the defendant is the New York State Thruway Authority, the City University of New York, or the New York State Power Authority, the particular defendant must be served in addition to the attorney General.
What Time Limits Apply?
Most claims against the State (in the Court of Claims) or against a local government (in State Supreme Court) require that certain actions be taken within a very short period of time, usually 90 days.
What is the Procedure?
To sue in the Court of Claims, one must first prepare a "claim," file it with the court clerk, and serve a copy on the NYS Attorney General personally or by certified mail return receipt requested. A $50 fee is required when filing a Claim. The Claim is deemed filed when it is actually received by the Chief Clerk in Albany. The claim can be filed by personally delivering it, by regular mail, and even by facsimile. While one category of claims (appropriation claims) may be filed within three years after the right accrues, other claims have a shorter time period. Personal injury and property damage claims require a claim within 90 days. For wrongful death claims, the 90 days runs from appointment of an executor or administrator but within two years of death. Breach of contract and certain other grounds have a six month time limit. Disability of a claimant may extend the time limit to two years after the disability ends.
What Should be Included in the Claim?
The Claim provides details such as when and where the claim arose, and the damages claimed. It must be sufficient to provide the State with notice to allow it to investigate and must allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action.
Are There Ways To Extend The Time to File A Claim?
If a potential claimant files a Notice of Intention to File a Claim, that may extend the time to serve and file certain types of claim to at least one year from the date the claim accrued and in some cases two years. The Notice of Intention document is served upon the Attorney General, and in circumstances where the defendant is an entity other than the State of New York, that entity must also be served with the document.
If a claim is not timely filed, one can, under certain circumstances, make a motion for permission to file a late claim. And if one tiely filed a Notice of Intention but fails to follow through with actually serving or filing a claim, one can make a motion to treat the Notice of Intention as a claim.