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INDEX NO.

60109/2016

FILED: WESTCHESTER COUNTY CLERK 09/14/2016 03:02 PM


NYSCEF DOC. NO. 18

RECEIVED NYSCEF: 09/14/2016

To commence the statutory time period for appeals


as of right (CPLR 5513[a]), you are advised 10 serve a copy
of this order, with notice of entry, upon all parties

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK


COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER

------------------------------------------------------------------------)(
In the Matter of the Claim of:
J.L. an infant by his Mother and
ANONYMOUS PARENT,

atural Guardian

Claimant,
DECISION

& ORDER

-againstIndex No.: 60109/2016


Sequence NO.1
CHAPPAQUA CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT and
CHRISTOPHER SCHRAUFNAGEL,
Respondents.

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WOOD,.J.
The following papers were read in connection with claimant's motion by order to show
cause as against respondent Chappaqua Central School District ("the District"). and Christopher
Schraufnagel ('the teacher"):

Claimant's Order to Show Cause. Counsel's Affirmation, Exhibits, Memorandum of


Law.
Districts' Counsel's Affirmation in Opposition, Exhibits.
Claimants' Counsel's Reply Affirmation.

Based upon the foregoing, the motion is decided as follows:


Infant claimant (".fL") is presently sixteen years of age. From September 2013 to the
present date, JL was and is a student at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua.

Respondent

Christopher Schraufnagel ("the teacher"), was a drama teacher at that school at the time that JL

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joined the theater program in September

2013. On June 1L 2015, JL approached

his parents with

another person who had formerly been a student at the school. [t was then that JL's parents first
learned of the alleged sexual abuse and other inappropriate

behavior

by the teacher against JL

and other students of the school. On June 15, 2015, an email was circulated
the school which generally addressed
on June 16,2015,

correspondence

Assistant Principal of inappropriate

the concerns of the school's

was addressed

theater program.

to JL's parents regarding

behavior by the teacher.

by the principal

for

The next day,

the report by JL to the

Said Letter states in pertinent

part:

"As you are aware. on June 15,2015, JR reported to assistant


Principal Andrew Corsilia that he has been a victim of child abuse by an
employee of the Chappaqua Central School District. Based upon a
finding of reasonable suspicion that child abuse has occurred, [ have
forwarded a report to the Commissioner of Education and law
enforcement authorities, as required by law.
In accordance with Education Law. Section 1128, attached please
find a notice of your rights in this matter. .." (Claimant's Ex. B)
According

to the record, the teacher was arrested and faces charges of one felony count of

third degree criminal sex act and six misdemeanor


child and four of third-degree
file a late notice of claim.

sexual abuse.

counts: two of endangering

Claimant

the welfare of a

now brings this application

for leave to

The District opposes the motion.

A notice of claim must be served within 90 days after the claim arises upon a school
district before an injured person may commence
Law 93813[2]; General Municipal

a tort action against the district (see Education

Law <s50-i[l]; Matter of Padovano

31 AD3d 563, 564 [2d Dept 2006]). An application


prior to the expiration

limitations

U.F.S.D.,

to file a late notice of claim must be made

of the one year and 90-day statute of limitations

Law s50-e [5]; T 50-i [1] [c]). however.

v Massapequa

(see General Municipal

when the putative plaintiff is an infant. the statute of

is tolled until his 18th birthday (Matter of Lanphere v County of Washington.


2

2 of 7

301

AD2d 936. 937 [2d Dept 2003]).


To determine

whether to grant leave to serve a late notice of claim upon a school district,

the court must consider whether (1) the school district acquired actual knowledge

of the essential

facts constituting

the claim within 90 days after the claim arose or a reasonable

(2) the petitioner

was an infant at the time the claim arose and. if so. whether there was a nexus

between the petitioner's


demonstrated

infancy and the failure to serve a timely notice of claim, (3) the petitioner

a reasonable

excuse for the failure to serve a timely notice of claim, and (4) the

school district was substantially


the merits.

Actual knowledge

prejudiced

by the delay in its ability to maintain

of the essential facts underlying

notice of claim; the public corporation

theories themselves"

its defense on

the claim means "knowledge

the facts that underlie the legal theory or theories on which liability is predicated
[proposed]

time thereafter,

of

in the

need not have specific notice of the theory or

(Lewis v E. Ramapo Cent. Sch. Dist., 110 AD3d 720, 721 [2d Dept 2013]).

Whether to grant an application

for leave to serve a late notice of claim is to the sound discretion

of the court (Doe v Goshen Cent. Sch. Disc, 13 AD3d 526 [2d Dept 2004]). Despite that the
infancy of the injured paI1y is not, in itself, a reasonable

excuse for the failure to serve a timely

notice of claim, it is a factor that the court must consider (Melissa G. v N. Babylon U.F.S.D .. 50
AD3d 901,903

[2d Dept 2008]).

Here. claimant argues that the application

should be granted as it is made within one year

and ninety days from the time infant claimant reaches the age of eighteen
yet reached the age of eighteen years; there is a reasonable
of claim against respondents

years since he has not

excuse for the delay in filing a notice

that such decision to file a claim was that JL's parents paramount

concern was JL's well being and as soon as they were confident

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that it would be in JL's best

interest to move forward, they sought legal advice, and counsel soon after filed this application;
and respondents
maintaining

cannot show that the delay in serving then notice of claim will prejudice

their

their defense of the merits.

In support of the application,

claimant mother offers her affidavit

attesting

that JL was

and is presently a student at the school. On June I L 20 IS, JL, along with another student who
recently graduated,

told her and his father about the inappropriate

contact abuse and behavior of

the teacher with them and other students that had been ongoing.
husband were contacted
been diagnosed

Subsequently,

by the New Castle Police on June 22, 2015.

Claimant

"As other students were stepping

forward and reporting what happened,

opinion that .IL was ready to talk about what happened,

may be of benefit to him, we consulted


(See Claimants'

asserts that JL has

with PTSD due to these traumatic events and her first concern was to help JL.

She had great concern about any further trauma in affecting the remaining

therapist's

she and her

years of JL at school.
together with the

and that psychologically

with Sullivan Papin Block McGrath

& Cannavo,

it
P.c."

Ex A).

The record shows that JL is still a minor and has not reached the age of majority.

While

the injured person here is an infant, the factor of infancy alone does not compel the granting of a
petition for leave to serve a late notice of claim, although JL's infancy weighs in favor of
granting leave (Sparrow

v Hewlett Woodmere

Based on these facts, claimant


facts constituting

demonstrated

U.F.S.D.,

110 AD3d 905, 906 (2d Dept 2013).

that the District's

the claim enabled it to conduct an appropriate

their burden of establishing

actual knowledge
investigation,

the absence of prejudice to the District (Melissa

U.F.S.D., 50 AD3d 90 I, 903 [2d Dept 2008]). Sufficient

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evidence

of the essential

and thus carried


G. v N. Babylon

exists in the record to support

claimants'
behavior

allegations

that ./L made specific claims regarding the teacher's

to the assistant

principal of the school, close in time to such behavior.

evidence that the District conducted

an immediate

investigation.

notice of claim, the abusive and improper acts occurred


school year of2013

and continuing

school and the police in ./une 2015,


substance,
prosecution

According

for an extended

through mid ./une 2015.

There is also

to the proposed

period of time from the

Since JL did report this abuse to the

the District had specific notice of the specific claims of the

nature an identity of./L as a victim, at least since ./une 15,2015.


was ongoing and Claimants

Summons and Complaints

alleged inappropriate

attach several newspaper

have been filed against Respondents

The criminal

and media accounts.


by the parents of three other

victims on May 18, 2016.


Thus, claimant demonstrates
essential facts within a reasonable

that the District acquired


time thereafter

constituting

timely, actual knowledge

of the

./L's claim (Lewis v E. Ramapo

Cent. Sch. Dist.. 110 AD3d 720, 722 [2d Dept 2013]).
In conclusion,

balancing

the required factors as the court must. the record shows that the

District timely acquired actual knowledge

of the essential facts constituting

factor to be accorded great weight. Thus. in the exercise of its discretion,


petition pursuant to General Municipal
behalf of the infant petitioner
Furthermore,

the court grants the

for leave to serve a late notice of claim on

./L.

under these circumstances,

permitted to proceed anonymously


respondents

Law ~ 50-e(5)

the claim, which is a

and in the interests of justice,

on behalf of her infant child.

rights are fully protected

as it has been provided

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claimant

shall be

The court agrees that

with the full identities

of the infant

and his parent, and to have the parent's


claimant in violation

name known may lead to further harm of the infant

of Civil Rights Law Section 50-b.

Lastly, contrary to the District's


parent has not asserted an individual

assertions,

claimant represents

that the Anonymous

claim. as such. the court will not address those arguments.

All matters not herein decided are denied. This constitutes

the decision

and order of the

court.
Now, for the stated reasons above. it is hereby
ORDERED

that claimant's

motion for leave to serve a late notice of claim on the District

is granted to the extent of permitting

claimant to file a late notice of claim within 30 days of

notice entry of this Decision and Order; and it is further


ORDERED,

that claimant

shall be permitted to proceed anonymously

on behalf of her

infant child; and it is further


ORDERED.

that claimant

shall serve a copy of this order with notice of entry upon all of

the parties to this action within ten (10) days of entry, and file proof of service within five (5)
days of service in accordance

Dated:

with the protocols of the NYSCEF.

September 14. 20 I 6
White Plains. New York

HON. CHARLES D. W00o/


Justice
ofthesup?rt

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To:

Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo


Attorneys for Claimant
120 Broadway
New York,
ew York 10271
Henderson & Brennan
Attorneys for Respondent
Chappaqua Central School District
222 Mamaroneck A venue
White Plains, New York 10605-1320
Christopher Schraugnagel, Respondent
Chappaqua Central School District
66 Roaring Brook Road
Chappaqua, New York 10514

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P.c.