Brown v. State, 2021-51123

CourtNew York Court of Claims
Writing for the CourtW. Brooks DeBow, J.
PartiesJeffrey Paul Brown, Claimant, v. New York State, Defendant.
Decision Date08 November 2021
Docket Number2021-51123,136520

Jeffrey Paul Brown, Claimant,

New York State, Defendant.

No. 2021-51123

No. 136520

Court of Claims

November 8, 2021

Unpublished Opinion

For Claimant: JEFFREY PAUL BROWN, Pro se

For Defendant: LETITIA JAMES, Attorney General of the State of New York (By: Michael T. Krenrich, Assistant Attorney General)

W. Brooks DeBow, J.

This claim seeks compensation for expenses incurred by claimant after the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) erroneously identified his vehicle as having been destroyed. Defendant filed this pre-answer motion to dismiss the claim on the ground that it fails to state a valid cause of action against the State. Claimant opposes the motion.

The claim alleges that claimant attempted to sell his vehicle [1] but was unable to do so because the prospective buyers could not obtain title to the vehicle, and that when claimant contacted the DMV to resolve the situation, he "was informed [the] vehicle was identified as destroyed" (Claim No. 136520, Exhibit 1 [Details of Acts or Omissions, unnumbered pg. 2]). The claim alleges that in correspondence dated August 12, 2020, the DMV's Auto Theft and Salvage Unit informed claimant that he would be required to transport his vehicle to a facility in Colonie, New York, on August 31, 2020, to be inspected by a DMV investigator (see id.; see also id., Attachment 1 [DMV Correspondence, dated Aug. 12, 2020]). The claim alleges that claimant "did not attend the original appointment, but [he] did transport the vehicle on May 18, 2021," and that "the inspection confirmed the vehicle had not been destroyed and an error existed in the DMV records" (id., Exhibit 1 [Details of Acts or Omissions, unnumbered pg. 2). The claim alleges that "[t]ransporting the vehicle to the DMV inspection facility was a hardship for [claimant]" because he "was required to transport a vehicle [he] had agreed to sell, so there was a risk of damage [he] did not want to accept" and "the vehicle was no longer registered so [he] needed to rent a tow dolly to move the car" (id.). The claim further alleges that claimant contacted the DMV "via an on-line help desk to request reimbursement for [his] time and expenses" following the inspection, but the request was denied (id.). The claim alleges that claimant "then asked the DMV Legal Counsel's Office for reimbursement and was told [he] would not be reimbursed" (id.).

According to the exhibits appended to the claim, claimant contacted the DMV's online customer service system on May 31, 2021, seeking reimbursement for the rental of a U-Haul "tow-dolly" and the mileage incurred when he transported the vehicle from his home in Middlegrove, New York, to the inspection facility in Colonie, New York (see id., Attachment 3, pp. 2-3). On June 2, 2021, claimant received a response from a DMV employee informing him that the mistake regarding his vehicle likely occurred because a junkyard reported an incorrect VIN and that he would not "be reimbursed for incidental expenses" (id. at pg. 2). After claimant further inquired regarding an address for service of a small claims action, he was directed to the DMV's Legal Bureau (see id. at pp. 1-2). On June 4, 2021, claimant received a letter from Associate Counsel Victoria A. Plotsky informing him that "the DMV is not legally liable to customers for errors relative to the title records of motor vehicles," and that therefore, the "DMV is not legally responsible to reimburse you for costs that you incurred due to any such alleged error" (id., Attachment 4).

Defendant now moves in lieu of answer for an order dismissing the claim for failure to state a cause of action. Defendant argues that the "DMV's mandate to record and report title, registration and insurance information clearly constitutes a governmental function," that "it is well settled that the recording and transmission by the [S]tate of information contained in the DMV records constitutes a ministerial act," and...

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