By Executive Order, New York courts have tolled the time in which claims must be commenced and suspended deadlines pertaining to pending claims. These steps are taken in the interest of curtailing all but a narrow class of critical activity in the civil courts of the state in the face of the COVID-19 emergency.

By orders issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, New York State will toll time limits for the commencement, filing or service of any legal action, notice, or motion until April 19, 2020 and prevent filings of any matter deemed “non-essential” until further notice. Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.8 under a provision of the New York Executive Law that specifically lists epidemics and disease outbreaks as state executive emergencies. This, in turn, enables the governor to temporarily suspend New York State statutes and regulations if compliance would hinder action necessary to cope with an emergency. In addition to tolling certain deadlines for lawsuits, Executive Order 202.8 also suspends in-person shareholder meeting requirements for corporations and extends the validity of driver’s licenses, non-driver identification cards, vehicle registration certificates, and license plate numbers through April 19, 2020.

Following upon the Governor’s exercise of executive authority, Chief Administrative Judge Marks issued Administrative Order 78/20, which prohibits the commencement of new claims and virtually all activity within pending claims. It directs that no papers shall be accepted for filing by a county clerk or a court in any matter of a type not included on a list of 23 “essential matters.” The essential matters entail, among others, orders of protection, emergency family offense petitions, Mental Hygiene Law applications, and applications addressing landlord lockouts and serious code violations. The order includes a catchall provision defining essential matters as “any other matter that the court deems essential.” This provision should afford those in need of a court’s immediate assistance an opportunity to receive it in case that evidences extraordinary hardship or irreparable loss.

These pronouncements are consistent with the imperative of curtailing unnecessary human interaction during this period of unprecedented crisis by freezing legal proceedings and preserving rights and remedies. Within these pronouncements, there is at least theoretical protection for parties who can demonstrate extraordinary harm such that the Court might deem an issue to be essential.

Parties to current lawsuits or those contemplating legal action would be well-advised to monitor additional orders and updates issued by Governor Cuomo, Chief Administrative Law Judge Marks, and other New York courts to discern when the deadline tolls will be lifted, when parties may file papers for non-essential matters, and other temporary changes to existing New York laws. This is particularly so as it gets closer to April 19, 2020 and as the coronavirus pandemic persists.

For further resources that our firm has compiled, visit our COVID-19 response page.

Explore further information regarding New York State’s executive orders and other New York state courts orders and communications.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.