Sexual harassment case allowed to proceed against Westchester hospital
Updated: Nov 26, 2019
Westchester Medical Center's motion to dismiss was denied, allowing sexual harassment claims to go forward, in the case of Doe v. MidHudson Regional Hospital of the Westchester Medical Center, et al., 53972/2019.
In that case, the hospital lost its argument that Jane Doe (proceeding under a pseudonym) was required to serve a notice of claim within ninety days of the harassment, and sexual assault, or else she was foreclosed from suing under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), against Westchester County Health Care Corporation. The Court disagreed.
In the October 29, 2019 decision, Westchester Supreme Court followed Margerum v. City of Buffalo, 24 N.Y.3d 721 (2015) in which the New York Court of Appeals held that “a notice of claim need not be filed for a Human Rights Law claim against a municipality” under GML §50-I, which is limited to torts and wrongful death actions.
Since 2015, several courts have refused to extend Margerum to actions brought against counties, holding that the notice of claim requirement under County Law §52 is broader than GML §50-I, and thus applies to statutory claims. For instance, in Sager v. County of Sullivan, 145 A.D.3d 1175, (3d Dept. 2016), leave to appeal denied 29 N.Y.3d 902 (2017), a whistleblower action was dismissed for failure to serve a notice of claim on the County of Sullivan under County Law 52.
However, there has not been a prior decision interpreting Public Authorities Law §3316, the notice of claim statute that applies to Westchester County Health Care Corporation, which operates Westchester Medical Center and its affiliates.
This case is significant because, for the first time, it determines that Public Authorities Law §3316 is similar to GML §50-I in that a notice of claim is only required for torts, and discrimination actions brought under NYSHRL are not torts - so no notice of claim is needed before filing a complaint in State or Federal Court. Westchester Medical Center’s argument that a notice of claim was required was rejected and its Motion to Dismiss was denied.
Plaintiff Jane Doe is represented by the Law Office of Laura Wong-Pan PLLC.
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