New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CORDES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-007-525, Claim No. 99351


Synopsis


On October 27, 1998, claimant, an inmate, was assaulted by another inmate while incarcerated at
Clinton Correctional Facility
. He contends that defendant did not search all inmates who went to the gymnasium at Clinton and therefore that its security measures were inadequate. Claim dismissed.

Case Information

UID:
2000-007-525
Claimant(s):
RAFAEL CORDES The caption has been amended to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Claimant short name:
CORDES
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
99351
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
John L. Bell
Claimant's attorney:
Rafael Cordes, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General(Frederick H. McGown, III, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, of Counsel)
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 28, 2000
City:
Plattsburgh
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision


On October 27, 1998, claimant, an inmate, was assaulted by another inmate while incarcerated at
Clinton Correctional Facility (hereinafter Clinton). He contends that defendant did not search all inmates who went to the gymnasium at Clinton and therefore that its security measures were inadequate.
Claimant testified that on October 27 he was housed on A-block, which was an honor block at Clinton. At approximately 7:15 p.m., he was among various inmates who proceeded to the gymnasium for recreation. The inmates were directed to line up in preparation for return to their housing unit at about 8:50 p.m. According to claimant, he lined up near the rear of the gymnasium when he was suddenly attacked by another inmate. Claimant testified that he did not see the inmate and still does not know who perpetrated the assault. He was reportedly stabbed nine times, including in the chest, back, neck, side and arm. Claimant stated that, despite the numerous wounds, he did not immediately report the incident. Instead, he walked back to his housing unit. He recalled that after the inmate count on the gallery, he reported the incident to a correction officer. He was taken to the infirmary and then transported to Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Medical Center (hereinafter CVPH) in the City of Plattsburgh for treatment.

Sergeant Carl J. Sorensen was called by defendant as a witness. On October 28, Sorensen was directed to go to CVPH to take statements from two inmates who had sustained stab wounds in an incident on October 27. He interviewed claimant and another inmate. Both inmates refused protective custody and neither would identify who was involved in the fight. Claimant contended during the interview that he was injured in the gymnasium and the other inmate related that a fight occurred on A-block. Sorensen believed that claimant's injuries occurred on A-block and not in the gymnasium (
see, State's Exhibit B).
Sergeant Sorensen further testified that inmates going to and from the gymnasium are searched on a random basis. He estimated that the majority of inmates on such a movement would not be searched. He related that inmates were not searched during typical movements within the prison. He noted that some exceptions to such rule existed when, for example, inmates returned from industrial shop, an area where they had access to materials from which they could fashion weapons.

The State has a duty to provide inmates reasonable protection against the foreseeable risk of attack by other inmates (
Blake v State of New York, 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, e.g., Jones v North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, 433 US 119, 132). To establish liability for an inmate-on-inmate assault, a claimant 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 York, 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 650).
Here, claimant made no effort to prove that the assailant was a known enemy. Indeed, he maintained that he did not know who perpetrated the assault. Claimant instead argued that searches should have been conducted on inmates entering the gymnasium, and that such searches should have included the use of metal detectors. The significant amount of inmate movement that occurs within correctional facilities makes it impractical to impose upon defendant a blanket requirement for searches before any movements. The use of metal detectors on inmates moving about a prison is not mandatory and a court generally will not substitute its judgment regarding the use of metal detectors for that of the authorities entrusted with the administration of the State's correctional facility (
see, Bostic v State of New York, Ct Cl, Mar. 6, 1995 [Claim No. 83864], Bell, J., affd 232 AD2d 837, lv denied 89 NY2d 807). Claimant failed to prove a viable claim against defendant. Defendant's motion at trial to dismiss the claim, 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.


June 28, 2000
Plattsburgh, New York

HON. JOHN L. BELL
Judge of the Court of Claims