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ALBANY � The state’s failure to abide by a 1991 agreement and assume responsibility for hundreds of mentally retarded people under the care of New York City will cost the state more than $15.8 million under a Court of Claims ruling. Judge Alan C. Marin of Manhattan said the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities seemingly did its best to respect the needs of the individuals involved. But its failure to take charge in a timely fashion mandates damages for both the city and the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), he said. The court awarded the city $15.2 million and the HHC $428,465. City v. State, 99160, arose out of an agreement signed in 1991 when the state agreed to place handicapped individuals who were then under the care of the city through the Child Welfare agency and the HHC. Under that agreement, called the Webb Stipulation, the state would take responsibility for caring for several thousand handicapped individuals over a four-year period. The state lagged far behind the agreed-upon schedule, to the city’s cost. In 1994, the city sought a contempt order against the state. A trial judge declined as a matter of discretion to hold the state in contempt but found the state in violation. The Appellate Division, First Department, twice upheld findings that the state had violated the stipulation. City of New York v. Maul, 239 AD2d 225 [1997] and City v. State, 284 AD2d 255 [2001]. The matter proceeded to the Court of Claims, which has jurisdiction over claims against state agencies and officers. “There is no question that defendant handled these clients with professionalism and sensitivity; that they were treated as individuals, not as numbers, and that strong efforts were made to match each referral to the best placement environment,” Judge Marin wrote. “But defendant’s explanation as to the difficulty in securing timely placements does not in any event bring it outside the terms of the stipulation and the agreed-to schedule.” Assistant Corporation Counsels Alan H. Kleinman and Joshua P. Rubin appeared for the city. Assistant Attorneys General Arthur Patane and Patricia Pawlowski defended the state. Mr. Kleinman said the state is now up to date under the stipulation. However, he said the city recently filed another action asking the state to take responsibility for more handicapped individuals now served by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services. That suit, like the one resulting in the Court of Claims ruling, is predicated on provisions in the Mental Hygiene Law. That law makes the state primarily responsible for the care of the mentally retarded and gives it exclusive responsibility for licensing facilities for them, Mr. Kleinman said. “The city can’t just create its own mental retardation facilities because the state Mental Hygiene Law doesn’t allow that,” Mr. Kleinman said. He said it is the city’s goal to have the state take full responsibility for the care of the mentally retarded. “We want the state to take these kids and put them in the right place,” Mr. Kleinman said. There was no immediate response from the attorney general’s office. In another recent Court of Claims case, Judge Terry Jane Ruderman of White Plains found the state wholly liable for injuries suffered by a Yonkers police motorcyclist whose rear wheel snagged on a drainage grate. In Blair v. State, 106159, Judge Ruderman said the odd placement of a drainage grate in the middle of the Cross County Parkway, coupled with evidence that the state knew the drain posed a potential problem, exposes New York to full liability. A damages trial will be held later. Robert H. Rosenblatt of Pirraglia, Rosenblatt & McGarrity of White Plains appeared for the plaintiff. Assistant Attorney General J. Gardner Ryan argued for the state.

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