New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. today commended Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing into law a measure that adopts a uniform process for notifying a government entity-whether it be a municipality, school district or public authority-before commencing a lawsuit.

"The new law gives individuals a better chance of having their day in court," said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York City). "The current system, which imposes a patchwork of differing rules and time limits, is so confusing that individuals can be barred from ever filing a lawsuit based on procedural grounds."

Under existing law, anyone wishing to file a lawsuit against a municipality, school district, public authority or other government entity must first file a "notice of claim." However, lawsuits are too often rejected because the notice of claim was sent to the wrong entity or because the time limit has expired.

The new law seeks to address both those barriers to bringing a case to court. First, it provides the option of filing a notice of claim with the New York secretary of state, who then would forward it to the proper agency. For example, in a case involving a hazardous sidewalk, an individual might not be able to determine whether the sidewalk belongs to a city, school district or public authority. The secretary of state would make that determination. Second, the law imposes a uniform statute of limitations for all actions against a government entity.

The legislation (S.7641-B and A.10657-A) was introduced by Senator Jack M. Martins (R-Nassau County) and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn).

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.


Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs