What if the Flint Case Happened in New York?
A few of my current clients have asked me this question as the Flint, Michigan case has been in the headlines almost every day. If the State of New York committed an act of negligence, or worse, can the State be sued? The answer is yes, but with limitations. Although the State of New York has waived sovereign immunity, much like the federal government, (see my previous blog post on the Federal Tort Claims Act), the State has insulated itself from liability with several key provisions.
To sue the State of New York, the case must be filed in the Court of Claims, rather than in Supreme Court where most cases are filed. There are strict filing deadlines, similar to those that have been legislated for suing municipalities and the federal government.
Additionally, the court of claims has judges, but no juries. Judges generally are not as susceptible to sympathy and award less money than juries. Another reason that court of claims judges are hesitant about giving large damage awards is that the money would come from the State which also happens to be their employer. Imagine if you were run over by a reckless driver who was making a delivery for a large company. Now imagine that you get to court, and the judge on the case is the owner of that company. This would of course be unacceptable and the judge would have to recuse him or herself. With the court of claims, however, no such recusal is necessary.
This is not to say that Court of Claims judges never give large damage awards. In fact, there have been seven figure awards in recent years. In addition, just like in Supreme Court, many cases settle before trial. Common court of claims cases include the following:
- Car accidents involving vehicles owned by the state;
- Car accidents on roadways that were negligently designed by the state;
- People who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit;
- Claims of false arrest and excessive force involving the State Police;
- Trip and falls/slip and falls on State owned property;
- Claims of workplace discrimination involving State employee.
If you believe you have potential claim against the State of New York, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney well versed in Court of Claims cases. There are strict filing deadlines, so it’s important to call right away. Please call me today. 212-363-HURT.