Tuesday, March 10, 2015

State Court of Appeals says notice of claim not needed for Human Rights Law claims

Anyone who represents plaintiffs knows that the statute of limitations for a Notice of Claim is short and sweet. Ninety days come and go with the wind. The practice was to file such a notice in employment discrimination claims against cities under Gen. Municipal Law section 50. The State Court of Appeals says that is not necessary.

The case is Margerum v. City of Buffalo, decided on February 17. This case alleges that the civil service exams used by the City in selecting firefighters and police officers have a discriminatory impact on minority candidates. The Court vacates the grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs. Along the way, it says a Notice of Claim was not necessary here.

Two of the four judicial departments in New York have already held that Notices of Claim are not required in a Human Rights Law claim against cities under GML section 50. That rule now applies state-wide. Under the General Municipal Law, these notices must be served within 90 days after a tort is committed. In particular, the statute says you file them against a city for personal injury, wrongful death or damage to property caused by the city. But human rights claims, including those alleging employment discrimination, are not torts claims under the statute. So discrimination plaintiffs don't have to file them under the General Municipal Law. (Notices of claim in Human Rights Law claims are still required against school districts, towns and counties).

Astute readers have pointed out that this ruling applies to cases brought against a city under GML section 50, which "requires service of a notice of claim within 90 days after the claim arises '[i]n any case founded upon tort where a notice of claim is required by law as a condition precedent to the commencement of an action or special proceeding against a public corporation." GML section 50-i (1) precludes commencement of an action against a city "for personal injury, wrongful death or damage to real or personal property
alleged to have been sustained by reason of the negligence or wrongful act of such city," unless a notice of claim has been served in compliance with section 50-e.

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