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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Acting on information provided by the employer later proved to be incorrect does not create a right that was not otherwise available to the individual


Acting on information provided by the employer later proved to be incorrect does not create a right that was not otherwise available to the individual
2014 NY Slip Op 04051, Appellate Division, First Department

A former Court of Claims Judge and acting Supreme Court Justice, relying on the erroneous advice of employees of the Office of Court Administration (OCA) that he was vested in his New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) resigned from his position. He subsequently learned that he was not eligible to vest his NYSHIP benefits and thus was not eligible for NYSHIP benefits under the law.

Asserting that he would not have resigned from his position when he did if not for this advice, he filed a petition in the Court of Claims seeking a court order reinstating him as a NYSHIP participant or, in the alternative, an order awarding him money damages. The Court of Claims granted OCA’s motion to dismiss the action.

The Appellate Division, affirming the Court of Claim’s ruling, held that notwithstanding the incorrect information provided by the OCA employees, which was ministerial in nature, and which might subject the governmental body to liability, no claim of a “special duty was advanced by the former judge in contrast to his being treated same as any other employee seeking advice or information from OCA.

Accordingly, said the court, OCA may not be estopped from applying the law to the former judge notwithstanding the incorrect information given to him by an OCA employee and upon which he acted to his detriment.

Citing Matter of Grella, 38 AD3d 113, the Appellate Division explained that estoppel may not be invoked to prevent a governmental agency from performing its duty is not applicable here.*In Grella, a case involving eligibility for certain retirement benefits, the court held that even when erroneous advice was given by a Retirement System employee, the Comptroller has the exclusive authority to determine entitlement to retirement benefits and the duty to correct errors and cannot be estopped from exercising such duties in order "to create rights to retirement benefits to which there is no entitlement."

* The decision notes that the “the narrow exception to the rule” barring the application of estoppel to a governmental agency was not applicable in this case. [See, also, 2014 NY Slip Op 03907, Appellate Division, Third Department, summarized at http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-consequences-of-withdrawing-from.html]


Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

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A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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