Law change makes it easier to file suit against a New York municipality

Access to the courts is a right. When you have a case or controversy, you may take it before a court of law to reach a resolution.

Yet, just because you have a right does not mean it is always easy to exercise; there may be hurdles you have to overcome in bringing suit in a court of law. In New York State, until very recently, there was a significant hurdle in bringing your case if you were suing a municipality.

There are many reasons someone may wish to sue a municipality to recover compensation, for example, a sidewalk slip and fall. A New York State statute that recently went into effect makes pursuing your claim against a municipality significantly easier than it was just a few months ago.

One stop shopping through Secretary of State to serve municipalities with notice of claim

"Public corporations" is a broad term that includes municipalities as a subset. When suing a public corporation, the plaintiff must serve a notice of claim against the public corporation. Formerly, it was up to the plaintiff - or his or her attorney - to find out who was the proper person to serve with the notice of claim. Public corporations designate someone to receive notices of claim on their behalf, and it was sometimes very difficult to find out who this person was for a given corporation and to actually serve him or her with a notice of claim.

As of July 15, 2013, much of the onerous burden of serving public corporations with a notice of claim has been removed. All public corporations in New York State are now required to file a certificate containing contact information and related information with the Department of State or be denied a portion of the fee collected for serving a notice of claim.

These certificates must designate the Secretary of State as the applicable agent upon whom plaintiffs seeking to sue the public corporation should serve notices of claim. The Secretary of State will then forward notices of claim to the appropriate recipient at the public corporation that is being sued. Therefore, from July 15 on, those pursuing a lawsuit against any municipality can simply serve the New York Secretary of State with the notice of claim.

Talk to a New York attorney to take advantage of simplified process

There is a fee of $250 charged to any person who serves the Secretary of State with a notice of claim, which is split between the Secretary of State and the public corporation that is the subject of the claim (if the public corporation has not provided a certificate of designation, the New York Department of State will retain the entire fee). But, this fee is a trifle compared to the hassle and expense that formerly came with filing a claim against a municipality.

The new policy will save litigants time and legal fees. If you think you may have a legal claim against a municipality for an injury you have suffered, get in touch with a New York lawyer today to find out how the streamlined process could be advantageous in pursuing your case.