Snow Days and SOL

I received a comment from the no-fault blog from Turkewitz asking whether there was an provision in the CPLR that extends the SOL by a day if today is the last day to file.  Almost all of the NYC courts are closed today on account of the snow.

The CPLR does not (See CPLR § 201) have a provision that extends; however, Judiciary Law § 282 doesI found one decision on point: Martin v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., 275 A.D.2d 910 (App. Div., 4th, 2000). My search was more haphazard than thorough, so feel free to keep on searching.  I found it funny that I couldn’t find the decision on the New York Official Reports site, but I found it after a two second search on Google Scholar.

Plaintiffs commenced this negligence action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by plaintiff Yvonne H. Martin on January 4, 1996 when she allegedly slipped on water in defendant’s store. On January 4, 1999, the date on which the Statute of Limitations for plaintiffs’ action expired, a snowstorm in the City of Buffalo resulted in a travel ban and the closing of the Erie County Clerk’s Office. Plaintiffs did not file their summons and complaint until January 5, 1999. In denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the action as time-barred, Supreme Court determined that the Statute of Limitations was extended by the travel ban and closing of the County Clerk’s office on the last day of the limitations’ period. Defendant contends that the court had no authority to extend the Statute of Limitations. We disagree.

Judiciary Law § 282-a provides that, “[w]henever the last day on which any paper is required to be filed with a clerk of a court * * * expires on a Saturday, Sunday, a public holiday or a day when the office of such clerk is closed for the transaction of business, the time therefor is hereby extended to and including the next business day such office is open for the transaction of business.” Pursuant to County Law § 525(1), the County Clerk is the Clerk of the Supreme Court and County Court within his or her county. In Erie County, the Clerk of the Supreme Court is therefore the Erie County Clerk for the purpose of “filing, recording and depositing of * * * papers in actions” (County Law § 525[2] ). Here, there is no dispute that the Erie County Clerk’s office was closed for business on January 4, 1999 due to a snow emergency. Such emergency closing extended the filing of plaintiffs’ summons and complaint to the next day when the Clerk was open for the transaction of business ( see, Judiciary Law § 282-a; see also, County Law § 206-a [2] ). Plaintiffs filed their summons and complaint the following day, and thus their filing was timely.

There you have it.  The bold is mine.

One thought on “Snow Days and SOL”

  1. Re: Snow days and the SOL
    Thanks for a useful and timely post. You definitely win the “I didn’t know that” prize for the week. Now that you’ve pointed out Judiciary Law § 282-a and the Martin case, a few points bear noting.
    First, Judiciary Law § 282-a is applicable only outside the counties of the City of New York. Within the City of New York, the applicable section is § 282 (b), which is subtly different, although the two sections have the same effect. Judiciary Law § 282-a extends the deadline for any paper which is “required to be filed” with the Clerk whenever the Clerk’s office is closed for the transaction of business. Judiciary Law § 282 omits the word “required,” and applies to any paper to be filed.
    The differing wording raises the issue of what papers are “required” to be filed. The Martin case makes it clear that initiatory papers such as a summons and complaint come within that description. The filing of a summons and complaint may be “required” to start an action, but then the plaintiff is not generally “required” to start an action at all. No matter, says Martin, the last-minute plaintiff gets the extension. What would be the result if the plaintiff had a choice of permissible venues, and the Clerk’s office was closed in his chosen venue but open in another? Would that still count as a paper “required” to have been filed in the chosen venue?
    Second, both sections only apply to time limits on filing papers. With regard to such issues as Brill time on summary judgment motions, the crucial act is service of the motion papers, which does not require filing with the clerk. If counsel intends to mail out the summary judgment motion on the last day allowed under CPLR 3212, and a snow emergency prevents him from getting to the office, he will have to look to the “good cause” exception of 3212, and not to the Judiciary Law. The former is discretionary, while the latter is mandatory.
    Third, both Judiciary Law §§ 282 and 282-a apply only when the Clerk’s office is actually closed. If travel is essentially impossible, but the Clerk’s office manages to remain open, the provisions do not apply. Such a plaintiff would be SOL on the SOL, and the defendant would LOL.

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