New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-006-94596, Claim No. 94596


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2000-006-94596
Claimant(s):
PAUL D. WILLIAMS, JR.
Claimant short name:
WILLIAMS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
94596
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
EDGAR C. NeMOYER
Claimant's attorney:
GRASSO, RODRIGUEZ, GRASSO & ZYRABy: Mark A. Juda, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
By: Paul Volcy, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 3, 2000
City:
Buffalo
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
The liability aspect of this claim was tried on April 3, 2000. Mark A. Juda, Esq., on behalf of the claimant, called three witnesses, namely Correction Officer David Franklin, Sergeant Eileen Bennet, also a correction officer, and the claimant, Paul D. Williams, Jr. The witnesses and their testimony appeared straightforward and the Court did not discern any material conflict in their testimony.

This accident occurred at approximately 2:00 p.m. on January 22, 1996, while the claimant was an inmate at Lakeview Shock Correctional Facility. At approximately 8:30 a.m. the claimant and 11 other inmates were transported in a van from the correctional facility to an area about 12 miles away. Their job was to cut tree limbs in a wooded area. When the unarmed driver, Correction Officer David Franklin, and the 12 inmates arrived in the vicinity of the work area, they still had about 250 yards to go to reach the actual work site. Because the work site was located in a rugged hilly area covered by two feet of snow, the van could not reach it. Correction Officer Franklin had obtained the use of a tractor and flat bed trailer (two flat boards on two wheels), owned by the Village of Westfield, to transport the inmates and work equipment the 250 yards from where the van stopped to the actual work site.

When they were leaving in the afternoon, Correction Officer Franklin stated the inmates were given the option to either ride back to the van on the trailer or to walk over the rough, snow covered terrain. Not surprisingly, claimant and others chose to ride on the trailer, which was pulled by the tractor driven by Correction Officer Franklin. The tractor and trailer, which had no guardrails, encountered a rut, pitched to the side, and claimant was thrown off the trailer. While the claimant was on the ground the trailer ran over his leg, causing the injuries complained of herein.

The claimant chose to ride the trailer rather than to walk through the two feet of snow. The possibility of falling off the trailer was probably as apparent to the claimant as to Officer Franklin. However, it appears to this court that the proximate cause of claimant's injury, was not falling off the trailer but rather being run over by it. When Officer Franklin undertook carrying claimant and the others on the trailer, he had a duty to exercise due care in their transport. Officer Franklin should have been aware when the trailer pitched, someone might have fallen off. He should have been on guard not to run over such a person. When the trailer pitched, Officer Franklin should have stopped the tractor. Officer Franklin said it was moving slower than a person walking. Instead, he continued until he heard other inmates hollering. By this time, claimant was five to ten feet behind the trailer, and had been run over by it.

The court finds that the proximate cause of claimant's injury was Correction Officer David Franklin's negligence in not maintaining a sufficient lookout while driving the tractor. The court finds the defendant liable for the claimant's injuries and directs that an early convenient trial date on the issue of damages be scheduled.

LET INTERLOCUTORY JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.



July 3, 2000
Buffalo, New York

HON. EDGAR C. NEMOYER
Judge of the Court of Claims