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Legal and Compliance

Responsible Office:

Other Requirement Title:
Small Claims

Document Number:

Effective Date:
April 15, 2021

This procedure item applies to:
State-Operated Campuses

Table of Contents

Related Procedures
Other Related Information


Pursuant to the NYS State Finance Law, the State University of New York (SUNY) has developed procedures for processing small claims. The procedure for claims of up to $5,000.00, requires review and approval by the campus president, the Office of General Counsel (OGC), and, for claims in excess of $1,000.00, the NYS Attorney General (AG).

In accordance with the NYS Court of Claims Act filing of a claim or notice of intention to file a claim against the State of New York must be filed within 90 days after the incident therefore, prompt investigation and processing are essential. Claimants must be notified as soon as possible if use of the small claims procedure is not appropriate and/or, if the claim is denied.


Guidelines for the Use of Small Claim Procedures

  1. Claims against the State of New York should not be encouraged, and claimants must not be advised on legal matters.  Claimants should be encouraged to use automobile, homeowners or renters insurance policy as an initial source of damage recovery.  The procedure permits recovery for damages up to the sum of $5,000.00 but must be used cautiously as it is not a device for disposing of every small claim submitted (even if the amount is de minimis) as a standard may be established, resulting in an excess of similar claims.
  2. The damage claimed must be directly caused by the act or omission to act of a state employee.  Damage caused by "an act of God" or another accidental occurrence is not recoverable.  Damage caused by vandalism is generally not recoverable.
  3. Claims for personal injury that include ongoing medical treatment may linger.  Therefore, the campus must investigate promptly.  If liability is established, as long as notice that a claim will be pursued is given within 90 days of the incident, the campus may extend the time bar while the claimant is waiting to gather all relevant medical bills.
  4. Claims in excess of $1,000.00 must be reviewed and approved by the NYS Attorney General (AG). The AG will not approve a claim if the right to sue has elapsed and is time barred by the statute of limitations. The State is not obligated to pay replacement value for damaged personal property (except for jewelry and other special items such as antiques) and the AG will reject any small claim that does not reflect a reasonable amount for depreciation. Generally, depreciation in the range of 20% to 50% of original cost is considered reasonable. Campuses should therefore ensure that, in processing claims involving personal property, other than jewelry or other items which do not usually depreciate in value, an appropriate amount of depreciation is taken on the value of any items exceeding one year old.
  5. The claimant is not precluded from legal remedy if these procedures are not appropriate, as the claim may be filed in the NYS Court of Claims for recovery of the damages.


There are no special definitions relevant to this requirement.

Related Procedures

Small Claims $250.01 to $5K


Claim and Release Form

Other Related Information

The following links to FindLaw's New York State Laws are provided for users' convenience; it is not the official site for the State of New York laws. 

NYS State Finance Law §8(12-a) and (12-b) (Duties of the NYS Comptroller relating to claims against the state)

NYS Court of Claims Act § 8
(State’s Waiver of Immunity from Liability)


In case of questions, readers are advised to refer to the New York State Legislature site for the menu of New York State Consolidated.

Chapter 370 of the Laws of 1999.

Chapter 542 of the Laws of 1990.

Memorandum to campus business officers from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business, dated March 3, 1992.

Letter to Office of University Counsel from the NYS Assistant Attorney General dated November 12, 1991.

Memorandum to campus business officers from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business, dated April 1, 1991.

Memorandum to Presidents from the Office of University Counsel, dated January 28, 1983.

Letter of policy from the NYS Attorney General, dated March 7, 1974.

Memorandum to Presidents and business officers from the Office of University Counsel, dated January 23, 1969.


There are no appendicies relevant to this requirement.