New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HOLLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-009-005, Claim No. 95356


Claimant brought this claim alleging negligence against the State in failing to protect him from an assault by an inmate at Watertown Correctional Facility. The Court did not find any culpable conduct on the part of the State and dismissed the claim.

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):

Nicholas V. Midey, Jr.
Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: Carla T. Rutigliano, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney General of Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 21, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

On September 8, 1996, at approximately 3:00 a.m., claimant, an inmate, was assaulted by another inmate while incarcerated at Watertown Correctional Facility. Claimant alleges that the State was negligent in failing to reasonably protect him from this attack.

The trial of this claim was held on May 4, 2000. Claimant testified that while he was sleeping in his cubicle, he was assaulted with a weapon, later determined to be a security lock tied to the end of a sock. According to his testimony, all the claimant remembers is waking up covered in blood and witnessing a "vision"[1]
leaving his cubicle.
Correction officers subsequently identified the assailant as an inmate by the name of Velasquez. Inmate Velasquez was not a known enemy of the claimant and was not on the claimant's list of enemies.

The State must provide inmates with reasonable protection against foreseeable risks of attack by other inmates (see, Flaherty v State New York, 296 NY 342; Dizak v State of New York, 124 AD2d 329). The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of inmates, and the fact that an assault has occurred does not give rise to an inference of negligence (see, Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914, lv denied 76 NY2d 711; Roudette v State of New York, 224 AD2d 808).
Generally, in claims involving the assault against an inmate by another inmate, liability in a claim asserting negligence on the part of the State, must be predicated upon one of the following grounds: (1) the victim was a known risk and the State failed to provide reasonable protection (see,
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 (see, Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833; Wilson v State of New York, 36 AD2d 559); or (3) the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene and failed to act (see, Huertas v State of New York, 84 AD2d 650).
In this case, claimant did not establish that he had any known enemies. Inmate Velasquez was not listed as an enemy of the claimant and the Department of Correctional Services
had no notice of any potential danger to the claimant. The correction officers had no information or reason to believe that the claimant would suffer an attack by inmate Velasquez.
In sum,
the uncontroverted evidence established that the assault occurred suddenly, and there was no evidence introduced to establish that defendant was aware, or should have been aware, of any existing animosity between claimant and his assailant prior to the assault. "The mere occurrence of an unprovoked, unexplained attack by a fellow inmate who did not have a history of violence and with whom claimant had no prior contact or difficulties ... does not equate to negligence on the part of the prison system." (Roudette v State of New York, supra, at 809).
While the assault upon the claimant was unfortunate, claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that there was any culpable conduct on the part of the defendant. Therefore, this claim must be and hereby is dismissed.
Finally, the Court notes that defendant had brought a motion[2]
seeking summary judgment dismissing the claim. This motion, which was returnable on May 17, 2000, subsequent to the scheduled trial date, has been rendered moot by the trial of this claim and the decision rendered herein, and is hereby denied.

August 21, 2000
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Unless otherwise indicated, all references and quotations are taken from the Court's trial notes.
Motion No. M-61504.