Legal Memorandum: Sufficiency of a Notice for a Tort Claim

Issue: Under New York law, what is necessary for ‘sufficient notice’ to a municipality of a tort claim?

Area of Law: Government Claims, Municipal, County and Local Law
Keywords: Sufficiency of notice; Tort claim; Municipality
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: 153 A.D.2d 849; 686 N.Y.S.2d 702; 234 A.D.2d 106; 319 N.Y.S.2d 650; 80 A.D.2d 799; 237 A.D.2d 493; 661 N.Y.S.2d 87; 681 N.Y.S.2d 201; 173 A.D.2d 298; 256 A.D.2d 371; 655 N.Y.S.2d 983; 121 N.E. 655; 437 N.Y.S.2d 94; 702 N.Y.S.2d 275; 154 A.D.2d 640; 680 N.Y.S.2d 293; 260 A.D.2d 213; 569 N.Y.S.2d 691; 650 N.Y.S.2d 717; 92 N.Y.2d 348; 197 A.D.2d 760; 47 A.D.2d 794; 546 N.Y.S.2d 646
Cited Statutes: N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 50-e(6);
Date: 04/01/2001

The test of sufficiency of notice is whether it enables the defendant to investigate the claim.  Powell v. Town of Gates, 36 A.D.2d 220, 319 N.Y.S.2d 650, 652 (4th Dep’t 1971).  In Powell, the court held that where the defendant was not prejudiced, a notice was sufficient which informed the defendant of the time and place of the accident but stated only that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused “by the negligence of said Town,” without specifying the precise nature of its negligence.  Similarly, in Lampman v. Cairo Cent. Sch. Dist., 47 A.D.2d 794, 366 N.Y.S.2d 237, 238 (3d Dep’t 1975), the court held that a notice which described the plaintiff’s injuries but thereafter stated only that the injury “was caused by the infant plaintiff falling from a slide maintained in defective condition on [Defendant’s] property through Defendant’s negligence” was sufficient to support the plaintiff’s negligence and breach of warranty claims.  The court did not fault the plaintiff for lack of greater specificity with respect to the precise manner in which the slide was defective.

In cases where defendants are given sufficient information at the statutory hearing before prejudice occurs, a defendant’s motion to dismiss for inadequate notice should be denied.  See Svartz v. Town of Fallsburg, 241 A.D.2d 799, 661 N.Y.S.2d 87, 89 (3d Dep’t 1997); Miles v. City of New York, 173 A.D.2d 298, 569 N.Y.S.2d 691, 692-93 (1st Dep’t 1991); […]

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