New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CUDJOE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-001-510, Claim No. 97044


This claim, tried via video conference, alleging negligence, is dismissed on defendant's motion at close of trial for failure to prove a prima facie case.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Susan Phillips Read
Claimant's attorney:
Peter Cudjoe, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Elyse Angelico, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 17, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

On September 22, 2000, this claim was tried before me via video conference from Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing") in the Village of Ossining, Westchester County.

Peter Cudjoe ("claimant") alleges that defendant State of New York ("defendant" or "the State") was negligent in failing to protect him from attack by an inmate known to be "mentally unstable or not normal" (claim filed September 26, 1997, para. 2). Claimant testified on his own behalf at trial, but did not elaborate upon this allegation in his claim. Instead, he speculated that the attack might have been caused by what he characterized as his undeserved reputation as a rapist.

Claimant informed the Court that he had no history of conflict with his alleged assailant, who was housed at the New York City Department of Correction's Rikers Island facility at the same time as he was. Specifically, claimant testified to the absence of any history of animosity; they had never had any "words" between them.

Claimant called Correction Officer Kenny Byrd as a witness. Although C.O. Byrd did not witness the assault, he did recall seeing claimant and the other inmate arguing after their altercation. He further testified that both claimant and his alleged assailant had blood on their clothing.

At the close of claimant's case, defendant moved to dismiss the claim for failure to prove a prima facie case because claimant's own testimony established that the State had no notice that he was ever in any danger of being assaulted by the other inmate. The Court reserved decision on defendant's motion.

The rule with regard to the State's duty for inmate safety is well-established: the State has a duty to provide an inmate with "reasonable protection against the foreseeable risk of attacks by other prisoners" (
Blake v State of New York, 259 AD2d 878, 879; see, Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342; Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842); however, the State cannot be the insurer of inmate safety (see, Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914, lv denied 76 NY2d 711; Colon v State of New York, supra) and "will be liable in negligence for an assault by another inmate only upon a showing that it failed to exercise adequate care to prevent that which was reasonably foreseeable" (Schittino v State of New York, 262 AD2d 824, 825, lv denied 94 NY2d 752; see, Blake v State of New York, supra).
Here, claimant's own testimony established that there had been no history or indication of prior animosity between the two inmates and that the attack was wholly unexpected (
see, Liebach v State of New York, 215 AD2d 978, 980). Absent a showing that the State was on notice of the danger posed to claimant by the attacking inmate, there was no heightened duty to provide "unremitting supervision" (id., at 980) of the prison yard where the sudden attack occurred (see, Colon v State of New York, supra; Padgett v State of New York, supra; Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495) .
Based on the foregoing, the Court now grants the State's motion and dismisses the claim. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

November 17, 2000
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims