A 50-h Hearing

Under New York State Law, you cannot file a lawsuit against a city, town or municipal agency until after you have filed a Notice of Claim and the defendant has had an opportunity to conduct a pre-action hearing on that claim. That pre-action hearing or statutory hearing is commonly known as a 50-h hearing after the section of Municipal Law that created them.

Don’t be confused. A 50-h hearing, a pre-action hearing and a statutory hearing are all the same thing. A pre-action hearing occurs any time a person appears under oath to answer questions posed by an attorney retained by the municipality or municipal agency prior to filing a lawsuit. This hearing is similar to a deposition that all parties are entitled to conduct after a lawsuit begins. A municipality or municipal agency is entitled to both a pre-action hearing and a deposition after the suit begins.

50-h hearings usually occur outside the courtroom and usually take place in a lawyer’s office or the office of a court reporter. The statutory hearing, similar to a deposition, allows the opposing lawyer to collect testimony from the claimant that assists in the pre-suit investigation of a case. The testimony taken during a 50-h hearing can be used at a trial.

The municipality or municipal agency has 90 days from receiving the Notice of Claim to conduct a 50-h hearing. If the Municipal Agency demands a Statutory Hearing, you must appear. You cannot begin a lawsuit until after appearing at the Statutory Hearing. If the municipality or agency does not demand a hearing within 30 days of filing the Notice of Claim, you have the right to commence the lawsuit immediately although you may have to appear for the hearing after filing suit.

What are Examples of Who Is Entitled to Request a Statutory (50-h) hearing? Every city, town, village and municipal agency in New York is entitled to request a pre-action hearing. Once the defendant receives the Notice of Claim, it has 90 days to conduct a 50 –h hearing. Municipalities include entities as large as the City of New York and Yonkers as well as the many small villages that dot Long Island. Some examples of municipal agencies entitled to a 50-h hearing include:

All school districts, including the New York City Board of Education.
All public transportation agencies, including the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, New York City Transit and New York City buses.
All public hospitals, including Hospitals operated by the City of New York.
All public nursing homes.
All public health clinics.
All fire departments and fire districts.

How Does One Prepare for a 50-h hearing?
You should treat a 50-h hearing the same as you would a deposition. Your attorney will provide guidance on how to prepare. I have written a detailed article on preparing for a deposition that covers everything from how they work to what you should wear. Remember, before filing a lawsuit against a municipality or a municipal agency, you must first file a Notice of Claim. If the defendant requests a 50-h hearing, you cannot file a lawsuit against the municipality or municipal agency until after the completion of the 50-h hearing.



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