ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that sponsors say will replace with standardized procedures the current patchwork of statutes for the filing of notices of claims against governmental entitites. The measure, A10657/S7641, had been pushed by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Most provisions of the bill will go into effect in 180 days.
In a notice sent to NYSTLA members yesterday, president Michael Jaffe said the legislation will “eliminate expensive and time-consuming litigation over unnecessarily complex issues of procedure, that unnecessarily burden the courts as well as the governmental and quasi-governmental entities involved.”
The bill will apply the 90-day limit for filing a notice of claim in the General Municipal Law to filings against all entities, including public authorities and corporations.
The measure will also allow all notices to be filed through the state Secretary of State’s office, which will forward the notices within 10 days to the appropriate entity. Current law requires that notices of any claim against a government agency be filed in the county in which the alleged tort occurred.
The Department of State will provide the public with information on its website about how to file a notice of claim and the entities that are entitled to such a notice.
A filing fee of up to $250 will be charged for notices filed through the Secretary of State’s office, with the state and the entity that is the subject of the notice to split the fee.
All actions filed against an entity that is entitled to a notice of claim will be subject to a minimum 1-year, 90-day statute of limitations.
New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. commended the governor for signing the law.
“The new law gives individuals a better chance of having their day in court,” said James, of the New York City Legal Aid Society. “The current system, which imposes a patchwork of differing rules and time limits, is so confusing that individuals can be barred from ever filing a lawsuit based on procedural grounds.”
James said lawsuits are too often rejected because the notice of claim was sent to the wrong entity or because the time limit has expired.
The state Conference of Mayors and state Association of Counties circulated memos urging Cuomo to veto the bill. Both argued that there are no guarantees that the Secretary of State’s office will act expeditiously in forwarding the claims. That, in turn, could cause delays in the agencies’ ability to investigate and defend the claims against them, both groups contended.
The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, D-Brooklyn, and Sen. Jack Martins, R-Mineola.
@|Joel Stashenko can be contacted at email@example.com.