The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined leave to file a late notice of claim in this slip and fall case should not have been granted. There was a nine-month delay. There was an incident report prepared on the day of the accident but the Second Department found the report did not notify the city of a potential lawsuit stemming from the accident. The attorney affirmation submitted by the city was speculative and therefore did not demonstrate the city was prejudiced by the failure to timely file the notice of claim. Petitioner did not have a reasonable excuse for failing to timely file. Despite the city’s failure to show prejudice, the petition should have been denied:
… [T]he appellants did not acquire actual knowledge of the essential facts constituting the claim within 90 days after the claim arose or a reasonable time thereafter … . … [A] Yonkers Police Department incident report prepared on the day of the accident by a responding officer did not provide the appellants with actual knowledge of the essential facts constituting the claim. For reports to provide actual knowledge of the essential facts, “one must be able to readily infer from that report that a potentially actionable wrong had been committed” … . A police accident report prepared by a responding officer, establishing knowledge of the accident, generally does not, without more, provide actual knowledge to the municipal defendants of the essential facts underlying the claim against them … . Here, the Yonkers Police Department report indicated that the petitioner stated that she had slipped and fallen while exiting a ramp on the appellants’ property and turning the corner, but there is no identification of the cause of the fall from which negligence on the part of the appellants could be inferred.
The petitioner asserts that there is no prejudice to the appellants’ ability to conduct an investigation inasmuch as the transitory nature of the icy condition would be difficult to investigate whether 90 days later or months later … . In response, the appellants rely upon an attorney affirmation stating that their ability to conduct an investigation was substantially prejudiced by the delay because one of the responding officers retired and might not be available to testify, and the others could not be expected to recall the accident, given the passage of time. This affirmation, based solely on speculation and conjecture, is insufficient for the appellants to rebut the petitioner’s showing of lack of prejudice with particularized evidence in the record … .
Nevertheless, weighing the appropriate factors, the Supreme Court should have denied the petition in light of the lack of reasonable excuse, the time elapsed, and the lack of actual knowledge of the essential facts giving rise to the claim … . Matter of Ortiz v Westchester County, 2022 NY Slip Op 04807, Second Dept 8-3-22
Practice Point: Here an incident report prepared by the police on the day of the slip and fall was deemed not to have provided the city with timely notice of a potential lawsuit. And the fact that the city did not demonstrate it was prejudiced by the delay did not prevent the Second Department from finding the petition for leave to file a late notice of claim should not have been granted.