New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HAYWOOD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-007-513, Claim No. 98177


Claimant asserts that his right thumb was injured because of negligence of defendant on March 16, 1998 while he was unloading a delivery truck at
Clinton Correctional Facility
. He also alleges that he was not provided appropriate medical treatment for his injury. Claim dismissed.

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):

John L. Bell
Claimant's attorney:
Keith Haywood, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
(Michael Rizzo, Esq., Assistant Attorney General,of Counsel)
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 1, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant asserts that his right thumb was injured because of negligence of defendant on March 16, 1998 while he was unloading a delivery truck at
Clinton Correctional Facility (hereinafter Clinton). He further alleges that he was not provided appropriate medical treatment for his injury.
Claimant was working at his prison job on March 16 and, as part of his duties, he assisted in unloading a delivery truck that contained bags claimant estimated to weigh 130 pounds. While he was moving a bag with the truck driver, the truck driver suddenly let go of his side of the bag. The entire weight of the bag shifted to claimant and, as a result, he injured his right thumb.

Claimant was taken to the facility infirmary and an X ray revealed that his right thumb was dislocated. Dr. Lee ordered the hand wrapped with an ace bandage, he excused claimant from all activities for 10 days and he prepared a request for claimant to see an orthopedic surgeon. Claimant returned to the infirmary on March 27 and an X ray taken at such time revealed the dislocation was back in place. According to claimant, he pulled on his thumb to put it back in place.

Correction Officer Bruce St. Pierre was called by claimant as a witness. Officer St. Pierre was at the work site when claimant was injured. He recalled that draft bags were being unloaded from the delivery truck and he estimated the weight of the bags at about 150 pounds each. He related that there was a lift in the area but that it was inoperable and had been inoperable for a considerable period of time. Officer St. Pierre said that five or six individuals were assisting in unloading the truck. He stated that there were four or five bags and that two people would move each bag. The bags were pulled to the back of the truck and then lowered from chest height to ground level. He recalled that claimant and the truck driver were unloading the last bag when the driver dropped his end of the bag and it fell on claimant. Claimant's thumb was swollen and thus he was sent to the facility infirmary. Officer St. Pierre reported that claimant did not complain about the process of moving the bags or the weight of the bags before the accident. The officer related that the same method of unloading trucks had been used extensively without prior injury.

Dr. Ira Ellen, the medical director at Clinton was called as a witness. He reviewed claimant's medical records and testified regarding the treatment claimant received. The doctor acknowledged on questioning from claimant that there was no record of any pain medicine being provided to claimant from March 16 to April 16. Dr. Ellen stated that the type of injury sustained by claimant does not always result in severe pain and that the amount of pain varies with the individual. He stated that the treatment provided was proper.

Although inmates working in prison jobs do not receive the panoply of protections afforded by the Labor Law (
D'Argenio v Vil. of Homer, 202 AD2d 883, 884), they are nevertheless entitled to a work place that is reasonably safe under the prevailing circumstances (Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910, 913).[1] Here, the evidence established that claimant and another individual were unloading a bag weighing 130 to 150 pounds. Claimant had engaged in this work previously and never complained about the work. There is no evidence that he suffered from any disability that prevented him from moving and lifting the bags. The number of individuals working on unloading bags and the small number of bags involved ensured that fatigue would not become a factor. Two individuals worked together to unload each bag. There were no reported prior injuries while unloading bags from trucks. The court is not convinced that the work conditions or methods were unreasonable under the prevailing circumstances.
Claimant's medical malpractice claim must also fail. As the court explained on the record at trial, the nature of claimant's allegations necessitated expert evidence to establish a prima facie case (
see, Giambona v Stein, AD2d , 697 NYS2d 399, Macey v Hassam, 97 AD2d 919). No expert opinion supportive of claimant's contentions was offered.
The claim is dismissed and the Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

May 1, 2000
Plattsburgh, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Although the Labor Law does not apply because claimant is an inmate, the court notes that there is a divergence of opinions regarding whether Labor Law § 240 applies to an injury occurring while unloading objects from the back of a truck (compare, Curley v Gateway Communications, 250 AD2d 888, 890 [Third Department], with Phelan v State of New York, 238 AD2d 882, 883 [Fourth Department]).