Thursday, May 04, 2017

Determining when "actual notice," in contrast to "constructive notice," of an administrative action is required to trigger the running of the Statute of Limitations for filing an Article 78 action


Determining when "actual notice," in contrast to "constructive notice," of an administrative actionis required to trigger the running of the Statute of Limitations for filing an Article 78 action
Knave v West Seneca Cent. Such. Dist., 2017 NY Slip Op 03416, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The collective bargaining agreement between the West Seneca Central School District [District] and the employee organization representing certain employees provided that upon retirement employees in the collective bargaining unit "could enroll in the same Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance and Guardian dental insurance plans available to the District's then current employees, at their own expense."

When the District sent an undated letter to its retired employees of under the age of 65 [Petitioners] advising them that it would discontinue its practice of offering "Under Age 65 retirees" the opportunity to enroll in the same plans that were available to its active employees, Petitioners challenged the District's action and sought a court order annulling the District's discontinuation of its "Under Age 65 retirees" practice.

The District moved to dismiss Petitioners' Article 78 action contending it was untimely. The District advanced the theory that the statute of limitations had began to run when it issued the undated letter addressed to the Petitioners, which action constituted "constructive notice" of the discontinuance of their participation in the District's health insurance plan.

The Appellate Division said that applying the date of mailing of the undated letter in a constructive notice test argument, as the District contended, requires a judicial determination, as a threshold matter, that the administrative determination at issue was "quasi-legislative" in nature.

A quasi-legislative-type administrative determination is one having an impact "far beyond the immediate parties at the administrative stage." The court explained that where a quasi-legislative determination is challenged, "actual notice of the challenged determination is not required in order to start the statute of limitations clock" ticking as the policy underlying the rule is that actual notice to the general public is not practicable. Thus, said the Appellate Division, the statute of limitations begins to run once the administrative agency's quasi-legislative determination concerning the matter at issue became "readily ascertainable" to the complaining party.

In contrast, where the public at large is not impacted by an administrative determination, actual notice, commonly in the form of the receipt of a letter or other writing containing the final and binding administrative determination is required to be delivered to the parties affected to commence the running of the statute of limitations.

The Appellate Division found that the only evidence in the record with respect to the determination to discontinue the practice affecting "Under Age 65 retirees" was the undated letter that was signed by the District's "Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources." The letter, however, made no mention of any meeting of, or resolution by, the West Seneca Central School District Board of Education at which the participation of "Under Age 65 retirees" in active employees' the health insurance plan was discussed or voted upon nor did the letter set out the authority, if any, upon which Assistant Superintendent relied upon in issuing the letter.

In the words of the Court, the District "wholly failed to submit any evidence establishing the process that resulted in the issuance of the undated letter, and the record is otherwise devoid of any evidence of the nature of the process giving rise to the determination. In our view, all of those facts and factual shortcomings are critical to the analysis."

Noting that the determination clearly had no impact upon the public at large, the court said that the District failed to establish that actual notice to the affected persons would be impracticable or unduly burdensome.

Thus, the Appellate Division concluded that the District [1]2 failed to meet its burden of establishing that  the challenged determination affecting the "Under Age 65 retirees" was "quasi-legislative" in nature and [2] failed to meet its burden of showing that the "readily ascertainable" constructive notice test should be applied here.

Concluding that Petitioners had filed a timely Article 78 action, the Appellate Division provided the District with 20 days "from service of the order of this Court with notice of entry" to serve and file an answer to the Article 78 petition and remanded the matter to Supreme Court.

The decision 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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