GOLDGRAB v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-007-521, Claim No. 93825
On July 25, 1995, claimant, an inmate, was assaulted by another inmate while
in a recreation area at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. He contends that
his assailant had known disciplinary problems and had previously demonstrated
violent propensities. Claim dismissed.
Footnote (claimant name)
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name)
John L. Bell
Arnold S. Kronick, Esq.
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
(Belinda A. Wagner, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, of Counsel)
June 15, 2000
See also (multicaptioned
On July 25, 1995, claimant, an inmate, was assaulted by another inmate while
in a recreation area at Great Meadow Correctional
Washington County. He contends that his assailant, Dontae Quinones, had known
disciplinary problems and had previously demonstrated violent propensities.
Claimant alleges that defendant negligently failed to provide adequate
protection to claimant and supervision of Quinones.
Claimant testified that he was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional
Facility (hereinafter Great Meadow) in March 1995. He was housed on B block,
two company, which was a housing area for inmates serving prison disciplinary
penalties. Inmates in such area were kept in their cells for 23 hours and
permitted one hour of recreation each day. Claimant related that in April and
May 1995, he began to experience problems with other inmates on his company. He
stated that some items were stolen from his cell, he received threats, feces was
thrown into his cell and an inmate attempted to set his cell on fire. Claimant
complained to facility personnel regarding some of the problems he was
experiencing. Claimant contends that in late June 1995, Correction Officer
John Telisky returned a Jewish star and chain to claimant that had been stolen
from him and found in the possession of another inmate. Thereafter, inmate
Quinones reportedly called claimant a "snitch" and said to him, "You know what
happens to snitches."
The recreation yard for inmates on disciplinary confinement included various
cages, holding from one to 15 inmates. Claimant said that prior to July 25, he
had always observed Quinones in a one-person cage whereas claimant was in a cage
he characterized as a ten-person cage; however, on July 25 Quinones was
reportedly placed as an eleventh person in the cage that included claimant.
Claimant testified that as he was conversing with another inmate, Quinones came
up to him and struck him with a razorblade. Quinones cut claimant from the top
of his head, down the left side of his face and ear to nearly his chin.
Claimant was taken to the facility infirmary where he received 81
On cross-examination, claimant acknowledged that he had the option of not
going out for recreation on July 25. He stated that he went out because other
inmates had indicated to him that they wanted to discuss and attempt to resolve
the recent problem regarding the belief that he was a snitch. Claimant did not
seek voluntary protective custody. Before going out for recreation on July 25,
he did not ask to speak to facility personnel. He explained that he thought he
could solve the problem with the other inmates by communicating directly with
Excerpts from the depositions of Correction Officer John Telisky, Lieutenant
John Gillingham and Sergeant Charles Lansburg were placed on the record at
trial. Officer Telisky stated that during the two months before the assault, he
was not advised that claimant had expressed a concern for his safety.
Lieutenant Gillingham, who was a Sergeant in July 1995, stated that at the time
Quinones was incarcerated in the long term confinement unit at Great Meadow he
was not aware of Quinones' prior disciplinary record. He related that the
Deputy Superintendent of Security would list inmates who were to receive
recreation in a single-person cage, but Gillingham did not recall if Quinones
was on such list during June or July 1995. Gillingham explained that there were
many different sizes of cages, ranging from single-person to ones that held 15
inmates at a time. He recalled that approximately five correction officers were
assigned to watch the cages. Sergeant Lansburg could not recall if, in July
1995, he was familiar with Quinones' disciplinary record. He did not remember
being advised that claimant had related concerns about his safety to facility
personnel prior to the incident. He did not recall any directive on July 25
that Quinones be placed in a one-person cage during recreation.
Deputy Superintendent Gary Greene was called as a witness. He was the Deputy
Superintendent for security services at Great Meadow during the relevant time.
Greene reviewed the disciplinary record of Quinones (Claimant's Exhibit 1) and
referred to such document during his testimony. In March 1994, Quinones had
been found guilty of possessing a weapon. The weapon was a razorblade. In May
1994, Quinones was involved in a fight with another inmate. In June 1994, he
assaulted an inmate, using a razorblade to cut the right side of the inmate's
face. Because of the various long-term disciplinary penalties imposed, Quinones
was transferred to Southport Correctional Facility to serve his special housing
unit (hereinafter SHU) penalties. Although he had not served all his SHU time,
he returned to Great Meadow by July 1995. He was placed in B block, the
facility housing area for inmates on disciplinary confinement.
Greene did not recall receiving complaints from claimant during May, June or
July 1995 about his safety. He was shown the copy of a note purportedly written
by claimant and reiterated that he did not recall the note. Greene indicated
that he received hundreds of notes from inmates. He testified that if the
property of one inmate was found in the possession of another inmate, charges
would be brought and the matter would have been documented. He stated that,
although Quinones was serving SHU time in July 1995, there was no requirement
that such an inmate be placed in a one-person cage during recreation. He
reported that yard assignments were generally left to the discretion of the
staff with immediate supervision of the area. He testified that the assault
occurred in a 15-person cage, not a 10-person cage as claimed by claimant.
Correction Officer John Telisky was called by defendant as a witness. He
stated that he did not return a Jewish star and chain to claimant. He denied
any activity regarding claimant's chain and stated that he did not have any
discussions with claimant regarding the chain.
The State must provide inmates reasonable protection against foreseeable risks
of attack by other inmates (
Flaherty v State of New York
, 296 NY 342; Blake v State of New
, 259 AD2d 878). The State is not, however, an insurer of the safety of
inmates and the fact that an assault occurs does not give rise to an inference
of negligence (Schittino v State of New York
, 262 AD2d 824). Indeed, it
is well recognized that, by their very nature of being filled with often violent
criminals, correctional facilities continually face the potential of violence
within their walls (see, Bell v Wolfish
, 441 US 520, 559; Jones v
North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union
, 433 US 119, 132; Arteaga v State
of New York
, 72 NY2d 212, 220). To establish liability for an
inmate-on-inmate assault, a claimant generally must show that (1) the victim
was a known risk and the State failed to provide reasonable protection
(Sebastiano v State of New York
, 112 AD2d 562), (2) the State had notice
that the assailant was particularly prone to perpetrating such an assault and
failed to take proper precautionary measures (Littlejohn v State of New
, 218 AD2d 833), or (3) the State had ample notice and ample opportunity
to intervene but failed to act (see, Huertas v State of New York
, 84 AD2d
Claimant's contention that Quinones had displayed such a compelling propensity
to perpetrate assaults that defendant should have taken additional precautionary
measures with respect to him is unpersuasive. A review of the Tier 3
disciplinary matters involving Quinones during 1994 and 1995, prior to his
assault upon claimant on July 25, 1995, reveals the following incident dates and
March 4, 1994 - Guilty of possessing a weapon.
May 27, 1994 - Guilty of not obeying a direct order and fighting.
June 15, 1994 - Guilty of possessing contraband and a weapon, and violent
conduct in assaulting an inmate.
March 20, 1995 - Guilty of an unauthorized exchange, possessing contraband,
unhygienic act, and damaging property.
Although Quinones had been involved in a prior assault in
which he used a razorblade as a weapon upon another inmate, such incident
occurred on June 15, 1994, approximately eleven months before the subject
assault. After the June 15, 1994 incident, there is no record of violent
conduct by Quinones toward other inmates until the subject assault. In
), a claim in which liability was found, the
assailant had been involved in four assaults within two months before the attack
on the claimant. Each case, however, turns upon its specific facts as the court
considers what is reasonable under the prevailing circumstances, and therefore
there is no minimum number of assaults that must be shown within a certain
period of time to establish liability (Hann v State of New York
, 137 Misc
2d 605, 608-609; see, Blake v State of New York
the court is not convinced that a similar assault occurring eleven months
earlier was sufficient within the context of a prison setting to require
defendant to provide additional security precautions regarding Quinones.
Indeed, Quinones had not yet returned to general population. He was still
serving time on restricted confinement, where his access to and interaction with
other inmates was limited. The other misconduct of Quinones reflected by the
Tier 3 determinations
fails to rise to the
level of establishing negligent conduct by defendant regarding its handling of
Claimant's contention that he placed defendant on notice that he was in danger
and therefore that defendant had a duty to provide him with more vigilant
protection is equally unavailing. Although claimant made a series of complaints
to defendant, he did not inform defendant of specific threats to him by
Quinones. Significantly, claimant's own testimony reflects that whatever
problems he perceived he had with other inmates he also believed he could solve
by conversing with the inmates. He thus chose to enter the yard on the day of
the incident and he intended to discuss with the inmates his problem of being
labeled a snitch. He admittedly did not request placement in protective
Claimant's testimony that there were eleven inmates in a 10-person cage and
that on all prior occasions Quinones had received recreation in a one-person
cage lacked candor. The court found credible the testimony of Deputy
Superintendent Greene that the incident occurred in a 15-person cage.
Furthermore, no convincing proof was presented that defendant engaged in
negligent conduct by placing Quinones in the 15-person cage. The evidence
failed to establish that it was incumbent upon defendant to place Quinones in a
Although the assault upon claimant was unfortunate, the proof presented does
not establish a basis for finding culpability by defendant. Defendant's motion
to dismiss, upon which the court reserved, is now granted.
The claim is dismissed and the Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims is directed
to enter judgment accordingly.
Plattsburgh, New York
HON. JOHN L. BELL
Judge of the Court of
The claim mistakenly identified the incident as occurring at Clinton
Correctional Facility. Claimant was permitted to amend his claim at the
commencement of trial to reflect the correct facility.
Quinones also had Tier 2 determinations against him. Tier 2 violations are less
serious in nature and the ones of which Quinones was found guilty have little
relevance to the case before the court.