Thursday, October 10, 2013

Glitch In E-Filing System Not Fault Of Counsel

Glitches in the court's e-filing system excused an attorney's errors in filing a complaint, according to an opinion of the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department:

The State of New York has moved toward the electronic filing (hereinafter e-filing) of court documents in the Supreme Court...Perhaps not unexpectedly, there are glitches associated with the initiation of the new e-filing system. This appeal addresses the extent to which courts may utilize CPLR 2001 to remedy defects in the e-filing of summonses, summonses with notice, and complaints, when the defect results in a statute of limitations problem for the filing party.

The court

Here, contrary to the defendant's contention and the Supreme Court's determination, the plaintiff's mistake constitutes a mistake in the method that was used in filing in a "practice" system instead of in a "live" system and, thus, is not akin to the mistake made by the plaintiff in Goldenberg that the Court of Appeals determined could not be excused. The mistake made by the plaintiff's counsel here was caused, in large part, by the glitches in the new e-filing system and counsel's unfamiliarity with it. It is much like the confusion spawned by the 1992 commencement-by-filing legislation, which, as explained by this Court in MacLeod, prompted the Legislature to amend CPLR 2001 to forgive innocent and nonprejudicial errors...

We hold that under the circumstances of this case, the e-filing that was to have occurred on May 4, 2011, with the County Clerk is a "correction" of the "practice" filing that had, in fact, been timely undertaken by the plaintiff's counsel with the County Clerk. The summons and complaint were electronically submitted to the County Clerk on that date, and receipt by the County Clerk was acknowledged and electronically confirmed. The "filing" was performed in a mistaken manner and method, which courts are permitted to correct on terms that may be just (see Goldenberg v Westchester County Health Care Corp., 16 NY3d at 328). Therefore, the plaintiff was under no burden to demonstrate an absence of prejudice to the defendant. In contrast, excusing a clearly untimely filing would constitute the disregarding of an error, which could not be permitted because it would be prejudicial to a defendant to deprive it of a legitimate statute of limitations defense. That, however, is a circumstance that we find not to exist here.

(Mike Frisch)

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