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
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
, 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
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.
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
, 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
Finally, the Court notes that defendant had brought a
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.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.