New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

VAN DEMORTEL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-009-007, Claim No. 98475


Claimant brought this claim alleging medical malpractice against the medical staff at Cayuga Correctional Facility in failing to properly treat an injury to his left index finger. In the absence of any competent medical proof, the Court found that claimant failed to establish a prima facie case 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: Patricia M. Bordonaro, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney General of Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 22, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is a claim by an inmate appearing pro se, alleging that medical staff employed by the Department of Correction Services at Cayuga Correctional failed to properly treat an injury to this left index finger.

Claimant testified that on April 20, 1996, while he was an inmate at Cayuga Correctional Facility, he was playing football in the recreation yard when he was struck in the left index finger with a football. He testified that he went to the infirmary on the following morning, and was treated by a facility nurse, who placed his finger in a splint and gave him Tylenol. Claimant also testified that the nurse denied his request to be examined by a physician at the facility.

He further testified that he was examined by a facility nurse on April 29, 1996, May 3, 1996, and May 13, 1996, but that each of these examinations was performed by a facility nurse, and not a physician. He then testified that he was finally allowed to see a doctor at the facility on June 14, 1996, and that the staff physician recommended that x-rays be taken, which were done on June 20, 1996. The x-rays indicated a probable fracture of the PIP joint in his left index finger. Finally, on January 8, 1998, surgery was performed on an out patient basis at the Harrison Center in Syracuse, New York.

Claimant contends that if he had been examined by a doctor within the first 48 hours following his injury, there would have been no need for the surgery, and furthermore that as a result in the delay in treatment, he now suffers permanent damage to his left index finger, which in turn has limited the use of his left hand.

It is well settled that the State owes a duty to those inmates in its institutions to provide them with medical care and treatment (
Gordon v City of New York, 120 AD2d 562, affd 70 NY2d 839). This care must be reasonable and adequate, as an inmate must rely upon the prison authorities to treat and diagnose his medical needs (Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, lv denied 76 NY2d 701).
Claimant, however, bears the burden of establishing that the care and treatment afforded him by staff at the State constituted a deviation from the applicable standard of care (Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025, lv denied 40 NY2d 804).
In this case, the Court has before it only the testimony of claimant, as well as his ambulatory health record, in support of his claim of medical malpractice. There was no competent medical evidence presented, either from a treating physician or from an expert witness whose opinion was based upon claimant's medical records to support his allegation of medical malpractice. In situations where it is alleged that an inmate was deprived of appropriate and timely medical attention and treatment, such a claim must be supported by expert medical testimony, and this rule applies to pro se claimants (
Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653, lv denied 91 NY2d 810).
In this claim, claimant had the burden of establishing that the treatment received by him, and/or the delay in performing the treatment, was the proximate cause of his damages. Aside from his testimony, claimant did not present any competent medical proof that the treatment he received was not proper or that the alleged delay caused or contributed to his injury.

In the absence of any competent medical proof that there was a deviation from accepted medical standards, claimant has failed to establish a
prima facie case, and his claim must therefore be dismissed.
The Clerk of the Court is therefore directed to enter judgment in accordance with this decision.

September 22, 2000
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims