Generally, if you want to sue a municipality in New York – a town, city, village, or county, or a special district such as a school district, fire district, library district, or sanitation district — you must first file a notice of claim. A good rule of thumb is that a notice of claim should also be filed if you have a claim against an employee of a municipality which arises from that employee’s employment.
A notice of claim puts the municipality on notice of your claims. The purpose of the notice of claim law is to give the municipality an opportunity to investigate the claim before a lawsuit is filed.
New York’s General Municipal Law 50-e sets forth the general requirements for notices of claim. It requires that the notice contain: (1) the name and address of the claimant and his attorney, if there is one; (2) a statement of what the claim is about; (3) the time, date, and location that the claim arose and how it arose; and (4) the damages incurred. The notice of claim must be served on the municipality (or the Secretary of State) by personal service or by certified or registered mail within ninety days of the claim arising.
After the notice of claim is served, the municipality may conduct a 50-h hearing. Although called a hearing, a 50-h hearing is more akin to a deposition. The municipality, typically by its attorney, will ask the claimant questions which the claimant must answer under oath. Because the answers are given under oath, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer prepare you for the 50-h hearing and to attend the 50-h hearing with you, although it is not required.
The laws relating to notice of claim can be complicated. In addition to the general rules set forth above, there are exceptions and there is a method to ask a court for time to file a late notice of claim, if the ninety days has expired. For these reasons, if you believe you have a legal claim against a municipality, it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer immediately.
If you need to file a notice of claim or if you think you have lawsuit against a municipality, the Long Island employment lawyers at Famighetti & Weinick, PLLC may be able to help. Contact us at 631-352-0050 or visit our website at www.linycemploymentlaw.com.