Friday, March 2, 2012

Notice of Claim Not Required for Equitable Action

           In Howard Johnson v. City of Peekskill (2d Dept. 2012, Index No. 009-09430, decided on January 24, 2012), the plaintiff commenced a civil action against the City of Peekskill seeking an injunction to compel the City to issue him a building permit for a two-family house and for money damages, both compensatory and punitive, arising from the City’s failure to issue the permit.  The Supreme Court granted the City’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to serve a timely notice of claim pursuant to New York General Municipal Law §§ 50-e and 50-i, and denied the plaintiff’s cross-motion for leave to serve a late notice of claim.

            On appeal, the Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that a notice of claim did not have to be served because a tort action was not commenced.  The Court stated the following: “General Municipal Law § 50-e mandates that a notice of claim must be served as a condition precedent to the commencement of a tort action against a municipality…[however,] the plaintiff’s claim is not subject to the notice of claim statute because his claim is primarily equitable in nature…although the complaint also demands compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged wrongful act committed by the City, compliance with the notice of claim requirements of section 50-e is not necessary where, as here, the action is brought in equity to restrain a continuing act and where a demand for money damages is merely incidental to the requested injunctive relief.”

Salvatore R. Marino, Esq.