New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PERKINS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-010-048, Claim No. 93449


Inmate injury in work activity

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):

Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 11, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, an inmate proceeding
pro se, seeks damages for the alleged injuries he sustained on November 9, 1995 during his inmate work assignment in the mess hall. This claim was heard in a unified trial.
Claimant had worked on the food line for two years prior to the date of the incident. He testified that, on November 9, 1995, he noticed that the left food warmer was off and had not been cleaned. He proceeded to clean and put water in the warmer to prepare it for use. Upon turning the food warmer on, and while holding on to it, claimant received an electric shock to his left arm. He testified that he "hit"[1]
the circuit breaker on the right side of the mess hall and summoned the correction officers on duty for assistance. Claimant and the two officers then pulled the food warmer away from the wall whereupon they noticed that the food warmer's electrical cord had melted. A sergeant responded to the scene and claimant was sent to the emergency room. After his examination, claimant was advised to return to the emergency room if his arm continued to bother him.
Claimant returned to the mess hall. However, he maintained that his arm was still bothering him and that he could not continue in his work assignment. According to claimant, he was placed in keeplock because he refused to serve the food line. Claimant subsequently learned that he was being investigated because the sergeant had a confidential informant who had allegedly observed claimant tampering with the food warmers and had attributed claimant's conduct to the cause of his accident. Claimant was subsequently released from keeplock.

It is well settled that when the State, through its correctional authorities, directs an inmate to participate in a work program during incarceration, it owes the inmate a duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace with reasonably safe equipment with which to work (
see, Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910,913; Callahan v State of New York, 19 AD2d 437, affd 14 NY2d 665). The State also has a duty to apprise the inmate of any dangers known to it that the inmate could not reasonably be expected to discover himself (see, Fitzgerald v State of New York, 28 Misc2d 283, 295). The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of its premises and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (see, Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850,851; Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874). It is claimant's burden to establish that defendant either created the allegedly dangerous condition or had actual or constructive notice of it (see, West v Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 259 AD2d 485; Katsoris v Waldbaum, Inc., 241 AD2d 511)
Upon listening to claimant testify and observing his demeanor as he did so, the Court finds a lack of credible evidence establishing liability on the part of the defendant. Claimant failed to produce any testimony or other evidence showing that the defendant was on notice, either actual or constructive, that the warmer was defective in any way. Moreover, the Report of Inmate Injury establishes that as a result of the alleged accident, claimant's injuries were rather insignificant, i.e, "no broken skin or burn marks noted. * * * TREATMENT PROVIDED: None required" (
Defendant's Ex. A). This is further buttressed by claimant's testimony that after the accident he was able to turn off the circuit breaker, alert the two correction officers and assist them in pulling the warmer away from the wall.
Defendant's motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved, is now GRANTED.


August 11, 2000
White Plains , New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

All quotations are to the trial notes or audiotape unless otherwise indicated.