Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The statute of limitations for an Article 78 action begins to run once the administrative agency's final position concerning the issue becomes “readily ascertainable”


The statute of limitations for an Article 78 action begins to run once the administrative agency's final position concerning the issue becomes “readily ascertainable”
Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers v New York State Health Ins. Plan, 2015 NY Slip Op 08676, Appellate Division, Third Department
[See, also, Roslyn Teachers Assn. v New York State Health Ins. Plan, 2015 NY Slip Op 08677, Appellate Division, Third Department, decided with Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers.]

Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District [District] is a participating agency in the New York State Health Insurance Program [NYSHIP]. During collective bargaining negotiations between the District and the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers and its Clerical Unit and Teachers Unit [Congress], the Department of Civil Service issued its Policy Memorandum No. 122r3 [122r3]* setting out limited the circumstances under which an employee of a participating agency may choose to decline NYSHIP coverage in exchange for a cash payment. 

Although earlier collective bargaining agreements had included such a buyout program without the new limitations, the District took the position that it was required to conform its buyout program to the new NYSHIP restrictions set out in 122r3. In response, the Congress initiated a combined CPLR Article 78 proceeding and Action for Declaratory Judgment seeking, among other things, a declaration that 122r3 was null and void.

Supreme Court agreed with the Association's position and granted its petition and, declared 122r3 null and void, whereupon the District appealed.

The Appellate Division vacated the Supreme Court’s ruling, holding that the Congress’ petition must be dismissed on the procedural ground that it was untimely, not having been filed before Article 78’s four-month statute of limitations had expired. The Appellate Division explained that in determining the date upon which the limitations period began to run, in this instance the four-month statute of limitations began to run on May 15, 2012, the date that NYSHIP issued the memorandum as NYSHIP’s decision on the new policy was deemed final and binding on that date and was "readily ascertainable"  by the Congress on that date.

The CPLR and case law make clear that the statute of limitations period for a CPLR Article 78 proceeding begins to run when the determination to be reviewed becomes final and binding upon the entity or person bring the action. Courts have ruled that such a challenged determination becomes final and binding when two requirements are met: [1] completeness or finality of the determination and [2] the exhaustion of administrative remedies available to the complaining party.

In the context of a quasi-legislative determination such as a policy memorandum, here 122r3, actual notice of the challenged determination is not required in order to trigger the running of the statute of limitations. Rather the statute of limitations begins to run once the administrative agency's definitive position on the issue becomes readily ascertainable to the affected party. In such instances courts apply what is termed constructive notice, i.e., the court deems a person or entity to have knowledge of the law, rule, regulation or policy at issue even if they have no actual knowledge of it.

As the Congress did not commence its Article 78 proceeding until December 21, 2012, the Appellate Division ruled it to be time-barred and granted NYSHIP’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the Congress’ petition.

* The Department of Civil Service’s “PA/PE Health Insurance Buyouts” policy memorandum is posted on the Internet at: http://www.pobschools.org/cms/lib/NY01001456/Centricity/Domain/9/NYSHIP%20Buyout%20Policy%20Memo.pdf

The Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers decision is posted on the Internet at:

The Roslyn Teachers Assn. decision, decided on the same day, is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2015/2015_08677.htm

Another ruling concerning Policy Memorandum No. 122r3, School Adm'rs Assn. of N.Y. State v New York State Dept. of Civ. Serv., 124 AD3d 1174, is posted on the Internet at:

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

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions 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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