December 30, 2020

The doctrine of res judicata bars considering claims that could have been advanced in an earlier administrative disciplinary hearing in the course of subsequent litigation

Although the Appellate Division held that the Plaintiff's breach of contract claims against the New York City Department of Education [DOE] was properly dismissed for failure to serve a notice of claim within three months of claim accrual, citing Fifty CPW Tenants Corp. v Epstein, 16 AD3d 292, the court further observed that these breach of contract claims against DOE were all related to Plaintiff's termination. As Plaintiff's breach of contract claims  "... were litigated, or could have been litigated in his Education Law §3020-a hearing or his proceeding to vacate the arbitration award," the Appellate Division ruled that the claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata."

Addressing Plaintiff's complaint that his collective bargaining representative, the United Federation of Teachers [UFT], failed to properly represent him during his Education Law §3020-a disciplinary proceedings, the Appellate Division noted that UFT's alleged failure "to properly represent" Plaintiff occurred almost a year before he had commenced the instant litigation. The court explained that the applicable statute of limitations was "four months from the date the [Plaintiff] knew or should have known that such breach occurred," and thus it was untimely. 

Further, opined the Appellate Division, "[c]haracterizing a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation as one for breach of contract is unavailing to avoid the four-month limitations period," citing Roman v City Empls. Union Local 237, 300 AD2d 142, lv denied 100 NY2d 501.

In addition, the Appellate Division noted that Plaintiff's claim was based on an alleged breach of contract based on Plaintiff's representation that UFT failed to offer him opportunities to "participation in certain remediation programs during the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 school years." As this issue related to Plaintiff's §3020-a disciplinary hearings, the court said the claim was subject to a six-year statute of limitations and thus it would run, at the latest, only until 2017.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed Supreme Court's ruling granting DOE's and UFT's motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.

The decision is posted on the Internet at