Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved legislation designed to streamline the process of filing lawsuits against municipalities and other government entities in New York, providing the groundwork for uniform, fair, cost-effective and straightforward statewide procedures for filing a Notice of Claim.

State law requires individuals intending to sue government entities for any tort — such as a slip-and-fall
or a malpractice at a public hospital — to file a Notice of Claim to alert a potential defendant of an
impending lawsuit. Currently, they must be filed in the county in which an alleged incident occurred.
The bill will allow plaintiffs to file notices of claim with the secretary of state in Albany, who would then notify defendants. Most of the bill’s provisions take effect in 180 days.

The legislature will also amend the bill to ensure that local governments and public authorities will not face shortened time periods within which to investigate claims if the secretary of state faces delays in notifying potential defendants.

The legislation also provides for a uniform 90-day filing deadline for all notices of claim, regardless of the type of government entity involved.

Supporters of the proposal, including the State Bar Association and the New York Trial Lawyers Association, say the current process of filing notices of claim is confusing and often leads to cases being tossed out on technicalities. They believe this bill will eliminate expensive and time-consuming litigation over unnecessarily complex issues of procedure which unnecessarily burden the courts as well as the
governmental and quasi-governmental entities involved.

Here are some highlights.

  • Service on secretary of state. In addition to serving a Notice of Claim directly on a governmental or quasi-governmental entity, plaintiffs will also be able serve Notices of Claim through the Secretary of State, as current law allows for service of process on businesses and corporations;
  • Uniform 90-day period for serving notice of claim. Notices of Claim to any entity, including public corporations and public authorities, entitled to such a notice will be subject to the current rules of the general municipal law, including a 90-day limit for filing a Notice of Claim;
  • Uniform one year and 90 day statute of limitations. The CPLR and other statutes are amended to state that except for wrongful death actions, all actions against public entities for damages, injuries to property, or personal injuries are subject to a one year and 90 day statute of limitations or another applicable statute of limitations prescribed by law, whichever is longer.