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Municipal Liability

By: Michael Rose

Claims against municipalities in New York involve unique legal issues and often present certain challenges. Examples of municipalities and municipal agencies include cities within the State of New York (e.g. NYC), school districts, public transportation agencies, public hospitals, fire departments, etc.

Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, a claimant must serve the responsible municipal entity with a legal document called a Notice of Claim. A Notice of Claim has special requirements, including strict time deadlines. Specifically, a claimant has only 90 days from the date of the accident to file the Notice of Claim. If a claimant fails to meet this 90 day deadline, the claim could be barred. Section 50-e of the general municipal law states:

In any case…against a public corporation, as defined in the general construction law, or any officer, appointee or employee thereof, the Notice of Claim shall comply with and be served in accordance with the provisions of this section within ninety days after the claim arises; except that in wrongful death actions, the ninety days shall run from the appointment of a representative of the decedent’s estate (N.Y. GMU. LAW § 50-e)

After the Notice of Claim is served, the municipality has 30 days to conduct what is called a 50-h hearing and/or order a medical examination of the plaintiff:

Wherever a Notice of Claim is filed against a [municipality]… [the municipality] shall have the right to demand an examination of the claimant relative to the occurrence and extent of the injuries or damages for which claim is made, which examination shall be upon oral questions unless the parties otherwise stipulate and may include a physical examination of the claimant by a duly qualified physician. (N.Y. GMU. LAW § 50-h)

A 50-h hearing, typically held outside the courtroom, is similar to a deposition in that the municipality has the opportunity to ask the claimant—who is under oath—questions relevant to the incident. The claimant is required to attend this hearing in order for the claim to move forward. After the 50-h hearing takes place, the claimant has 1 year and 90 days (from the date of the accident) to file a lawsuit against the municipal entity. There are some exceptions to this rule and the statute of limitations can be different for various municipal entities.

It is important to note the 90-day Notice of Claim requirement is different than the normal three-year statute of limitations for a general negligence claim in New York.

With these differences, attorneys often miss important deadlines or fail to meet Notice of Claim requirements. These errors can be fatal to a claim.

At Hach & Rose, LLP, we have great experience representing those who are injured as a result of negligence committed by municipalities:

  • $2,100,000 for a maintenance school teacher who fell from a defective ladder.
  • $1,500,000 for a man injured in an auto accident due to a municipal employee’s negligence.
  • $250,000 for a man who tripped and fell on a defective pedestrian overpass.
  • $3,250,000 for a worker who fell through a platform.
  • $1,500,000 for a worker burned due to a negligently maintained pump.
  • $150,000 for a woman who slipped and fell on ice in a school parking lot.
  • $2,300,000 jury verdict for a man struck by a bus.

If you have a claim against a municipality and would like a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, please contact the law firm of Hach & Rose, LLP, at (212) 779-0057 or visit our website www.unionlawfirm.com.

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