No Special Duty Owed to Claimant/County Clerk Cannot Be Sued For Failure to Properly Docket a Judgment
In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Angiolillo, the Second Department determined that the County Clerk could not be sued by a judgment debtor based on the clerk’s failure to properly docket a judgment. The court held that no special duty of care was owed by the municipality to the claimant, and therefore it was unnecessary to address the “sovereign immunity” and “discretionary” versus “ministerial” issues:
A “special duty” is “a duty to exercise reasonable care toward the plaintiff,” and is “born of a special relationship between the plaintiff and the governmental entity” (Pelaez v Seide, 2 NY3d 186, 189, 198-199; see McLean v City of New York, 12 NY3d at 199).
“A special relationship can be formed in three ways: (1) when the municipality violates a statutory duty enacted for the benefit of a particular class of persons; (2) when it voluntarily assumes a duty that generates justifiable reliance by the person who benefits from the duty; or (3) when the municipality assumes positive direction and control in the face of a known, blatant and dangerous safety violation” (Pelaez v Seide, 2 NY3d at 199-200; see McLean v City of New York, 12 NY3d at 199). * * *
To satisfy the first and second prerequisites, the claimant must be “one of the class for whose particular benefit the statute was enacted,” and it must be shown that “recognition of a private right of action would promote the legislative purpose” of the governing statutes … . A determination that these two prerequisites are met here would require us to conclude that the class for whose particular benefit the governing statutes were enacted comprises judgment creditors, and that the legislative purpose of the statutory scheme was to make judgment creditors whole for their losses. This is simply not the case. * * *
In any event, even if the first two prerequisites have been met, the third one has not. “[T]he most critical inquiry in determining whether to recognize a private cause of action where one is not expressly provided is whether such action would be consistent with the over-all legislative scheme” … . A private right of action for a new type of claim should not be judicially recognized by implication “where the statutes in question already contain[ ] substantial enforcement mechanisms, indicating that the Legislature considered how best to effectuate its intent and provided the avenues for relief it deemed warranted” … . The judgment lien created by CPLR 5018 and 5203 is simply one weapon in the “arsenal of enforcement mechanisms under CPLR article 52” provided to judgment creditors… . Flagstar Bank FSB v State of New York, 2013 NY Slip Op 08592, 2nd Dept 12-26-13