Discrimination Claims Under the Human Rights Law Are Not Subject to New York’s Notice of Claim Requirement, Court of Appeals Holds

In Margerum v. City of Buffalo (NY Ct. App. 2/17/15), the New York Court of Appeals held that a notice of claim need not be filed for a Human Rights Law claim against a municipality.

In this case, plaintiffs – 12 white firefighters – alleged that the defendant “engaged in reverse, disparate treatment racial discrimination” relating to the expiration of promotion eligibility lists. The city filed a CPLR 3211 pre-answer motion to dismiss on the ground that, inter alia, plaintiffs failed to file a notice of claim under the General Municipal Law.

The court rejected defendant’s argument, reasoning:

Preliminarily, we reject the City’s argument for dismissal on the basis of plaintiffs’ failure to file a notice of claim prior to commencement of this action. General Municipal Law § 50-e(1)(a) requires service of a notice of claim within 90 days after the claim arises “[i]n any case founded upon tort where a notice of claim is required by law as a condition precedent to the commencement of an action or special proceeding against a public corporation.” General Municipal Law § 50-i(1) precludes commencement of an action against a city “for personal injury, wrongful death or damage to real or personal property alleged to have been sustained by reason of the negligence or wrongful act of such city,” unless a notice of claim has been served in compliance with section 50-e. The Appellate Division departments addressing the issue have determined that the General Municipal Law does not encompass a cause of action based on the Human Rights Law and “[s]ervice of a notice of claim is therefore not a condition precedent to commencement of an action based on the Human Rights Law in a jurisdiction where General Municipal Law §§ 50-e and 50-i provide the only notice of claim criteria”[.] Human rights claims are not tort actions under 50-e and are not personal injury, wrongful death, or damage to personal property claims under 50-i. Nor do we perceive any reason to encumber the filing of discrimination claims. Accordingly, we conclude that there is no notice of claim requirement here.

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