The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the petition for leave to file a late notice of claim should have been granted. The notice of claim was served five days after the expiration of the 90-day time-limit. The court deemed that to constitute timely knowledge of the claim. The city did not demonstrate prejudice. The absence of an excuse was not a fatal defect:
… [T]he petitioner served the notice of claim upon the respondents five days after the 90-day period for service had expired and commenced the instant proceeding the next day. Under such circumstances, the respondents acquired actual knowledge of the essential facts constituting the claim within a reasonable time after the expiration of the 90-day statutory period … . Since the respondents acquired timely knowledge of the essential facts constituting the petitioner’s claim, the petitioner met his initial burden of showing a lack of prejudice … .
… [T]he respondents “failed to come forward with particularized evidence showing that the late notice had substantially prejudiced [their] ability to defend the claim on the merits” … . Rather, the respondents’ counsel made only conclusory assertions that the petitioner’s five-day delay in serving the notice of claim had hindered the respondents’ ability to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of the subject incident, which “were insufficient to rebut the petitioner’s initial showing of lack of prejudice” … .
Although the petitioner failed to offer a reasonable excuse for his failure to timely serve the notice of claim, “the absence of a reasonable excuse is not fatal to the petition where there was actual notice and absence of prejudice” … . Matter of Gabriel v City of Long Beach, 2022 NY Slip Op 04169, Second Dept 6-29-22
Practice Point: Here the notice of claim was served only five days late. The city was thereby deemed to have had timely notice of the nature of the claim and the petitioner was deemed to have demonstrated a lack of prejudice. The fact that the petitioner did not have an adequate excuse was not a fatal defect. Leave to file a late notice of claim should have been granted.