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State and municipal liability claims have complex procedural requirements


It is important that anyone with a municipal liability claim against New York City or another public entity meet notice of claim requirements to preserve the right to sue.

In New York, the laws are extremely complicated that govern if and how a governmental body or public employee may be sued for negligence or intentional harm that caused injury or death to a member of the public. It is important that anyone harmed by the actions or inactions of a New York City governmental unit, or New York state governmental unit, or county or local governmental unit, or by any other public entity or a public employee speak with an attorney immediately. Legal counsel can provide advice about meeting strict notice and deadline requirements that preserve the right to sue the state or municipal body or employee in court.

Examples of state or municipal liability claims could include injuries from:

  • Slipping and falling because of a dangerous condition in a government office
  • Being in a motor vehicle accident because of a poorly designed or maintained public roadway
  • Being the victim of medical negligence during a medical procedure in a public hospital
  • Being in an accident with a public bus or train
  • Being the victim of an assault because of inadequate security at a public subway station, public housing facility or city parking garage
  • Tripping and falling on a damaged public sidewalk or pothole in the street
  • Falling from dangerous playground equipment at a public park or public school
  • Receiving inadequate medical care while in jail
  • Ingesting lead dust in public housing
  • Being the victim of police brutality
  • Experiencing sexual abuse or assault at a public school
  • State and municipal liability

An injury on publicly owned property is similar to a private premises liability claim, but with additional legal requirements. In New York, when someone is injured on dangerous premises owned by the city, by municipal negligence or by a city employee acting in his or her official capacity, the injured party must take care to comply with notice and deadline requirements to preserve the legal claim against the municipality.

Normally, to sue a New York municipality or its employee in the performance of his or her official duties for injury caused by negligence or intentional harm, the injured party must provide written notice of the claim to the municipality within 90 days.

The notice of claim gives the municipality information about the incident that caused injury, including name, attorney’s name, addresses, details about what happened and of the resulting injuries or property damage. The municipality then has 30 days to ask for a preliminary hearing.

If a claimant misses the 90-day deadline for filing his or her notice of claim, an extension may be requested in state court, but there is no guaranty that an extension will be granted; and requests for extension are frequently denied. Unfortunately, missing the 90-day notice deadline generally extinguishes the right to file the municipal liability lawsuit. An attorney should be consulted to understand the options.

Depending on the nature of the municipal liability claim, there may be additional or different procedural requirements.

Because of the complexity of governmental regulation in New York, accident victims may be unaware whether the responsible governmental agency is state, municipal, county, local, or other public agency. For example, a New York City resident who lives in a public housing complex who leaves his or her home, walks two blocks to the subway, and then takes a subway to the airport, will have interaction with numerous governmental entities – including New York City Housing Authority, City of New York, New York City Transit Authority, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In addition, notice to the wrong governmental entity generally will not satisfy the legal requirements to sue for personal injuries.

It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible should you have a potential New York state or municipal liability claim. The proper notices must be timely provided to preserve the right to file suit against the public entity for damages for physical and mental injury and property damage. In addition, there are requirements and deadlines commencing the formal lawsuit itself.

The attorneys at Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C., in Manhattan represent clients in municipal, county, state and other governmental liability claims.

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