Cavanaugh v Board of Education of Huntington Union Free School District, 296 A.D.2d 369
The Cavanaugh decisions demonstrates the critical importance of filing a timely notice of claim when an individual plans to sue a school district concerning a matter solely involving his or her private interest.
Carlene Cavanaugh sued the Board of Education of Huntington Union Free School District for damages for alleged acts of employment discrimination in violation of Executive Law Section 296. Cavanaugh claimed that the school district forced her to resign from her position because it refused reasonably accommodate her disability. She also alleged that the district violated Section 296 by unlawfully discriminating against her because of her age.
Although Cavanaugh apparently was timely in filing her lawsuit, she failed to file a timely notice of claim with the school district.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, ruled that where an individual "seeks private relief for employment discrimination in violation of the Executive Law," the timely filing of a notice of claim required by Section 3813(1) of the Education Law is "a condition precedent to suit." The court cited the Court of Appeals ruling in Mills v County of Monroe, 59 NY2d 307, [certiorari denied 464 US 1018] as authority for its ruling.
Sometimes it may be possible to obtain court approval to file a "late notice of claim." However, the general rule is that if an aggrieved party fails to file a required notice of claim before the controlling statute of limitations expires, the courts do not have "jurisdiction" over the issue.
As the Cavanaugh decision implies, courts may find it necessary to distinguish between an employee's suing his or her employer in an effort to vindicate a private interest in contrast to his or her attempt to vindicate a public interest.