Houston v. Coleman
Justice Jack Battaglia
Paraprofessional Houston's amended complaint sought money damages from principal Coleman for defamation. Coleman sought dismissal contending Houston failed to file a notice of claim with the City of New York Office of the Comptroller, and was now time-barred from seeking leave to file a late notice under Education Law §3213. Coleman terminated Houston based on findings of corporal punishment and verbal abuse of students. Houston challenged the termination in two forums, and a federal court action was settled. The arbitrator in the grievance and arbitration proceeding ordered Houston's reinstatement with no back pay. The court noted that even if various pleading deficiencies were cured, the action could not proceed as service of a notice of claim was a condition precedent to commencing a suit against defendant. Houston claimed she filed electronically at the Comptroller's website. Yet, the court noted an unsuccessful attempt to file electronically could serve as a basis for the court to exercise discretion in granting leave for a late filing only where the attempt was otherwise timely, and the failure to deliver the electronic notice was the result of computer failure, not user error. Thus, defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.