New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MOORE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-010-061, Claim No. 92943


Inmate slip and fall on snow and ice in recreation yard did not establish defendant negligent of maintenance of the area.

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: Vincent Cascio, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 18, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant seeks damages for injuries she allegedly sustained on February 1, 1994 during her incarceration at Taconic Correctional Facility ("Taconic"), when she slipped and fell on a snow covered ice patch in the yard.
The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this Decision pertains solely to the issue of liability.
Claimant testified that, sometime around 9:00 or 10:30 a.m. on February 1, 1994, it started to snow; she did not know when it stopped snowing. At approximately 11:15 a.m., after the class claimant was attending had ended, the inmates were directed to return to their housing units by walking through the yard.
Claimant was wearing sneakers as she proceeded on the eight foot wide paved walkway. There were several inmates walking ahead of claimant on the walkway. Claimant testified that she was looking ahead, and not down, as she walked. Despite the snow, she walked at her normal pace. Claimant testified that there was "a thin covering of snow" over the walkway (T:64).[1] She testified that as she walked, her right foot skidded and she fell backwards to the ground. As she lay on the ground, she observed that she had fallen on a patch of ice which she described as approximately four feet wide and almost the length of her body. Claimant testified that she had not observed the ice before her fall because it was covered by a thin layer of snow. On cross-examination, however, it was elicited that her deposition testimony was that she had observed ice on the walkway before her fall.
Sergeant Yarbrough of the Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") responded to claimant's accident and he reported that
claimant had slipped on a small patch of ice measuring approximately 40 by 24 inches (Ex. 6).
James Moncey, the maintenance supervisor at Taconic and employee for 21 years with DOCS, testified on behalf of defendant. He explained that inmate utility crews, under the supervision of a correction officer, addressed snow and ice conditions at the facility by plowing, shoveling, sanding and salting. Moncey stated that salt was ineffective to melt snow when the temperature was below 23 degrees. Moncey walked the facility area on his daily inspections. He noted that barrels of salt and sand were located in front of all the buildings.

Correction Officer Michael Henley, an 18 year veteran of DOCS, responded to claimant's accident scene and testified on behalf of defendant. Henley was assigned to claimant's housing unit, which included the walkway where claimant fell. He recalled that at approximately 8:00 a.m. on February 1, 1994, the utility crew was applying either salt, sand, or both, to the walkway. Henley testified that Correction Officer Rodriquez photographed the area of claimant's fall (Ex. A).

The weather reports introduced into evidence reveal that at Westchester County Airport there had been a trace of precipitation on February 1, 1994 between 9:30 a.m. and the time of claimant's accident and there had not been any previous precipitation since January 28, 1994 (Ex. 9). The temperature was below freezing on February 1, 1994 and the prior two days.

It is well established that "[t]he State just as any other party *** is responsible in the operation and management of its schools, hospitals and other institutions, only for hazards reasonably to be foreseen, only for risks reasonably to be perceived" (
Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342, 346). 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). Negligence must be proven (see, Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719) and the reasonable standard of care must be applied with an appreciation of the problems caused by winter weather (see, Pappo v State of New York, 233 AD2d 379; Marcellus v Littauer Hosp. Assn., 145 AD2d 680, 681). The mere failure to remove all snow and ice from walkways does not constitute negligence (see, Rector v City of New York, 259 AD2d 319), unless it is shown that defendant's efforts increased the hazard (see, Reidy v EZE Equip. Co., 234 AD2d 593).
In the instant case, there was no evidence that defendant created the icy condition or had actual or constructive notice of it (
see, Rodriguez v Notre Dame Academy of Staten Island, ___AD2d___ [2d Dept, July 24, 2000]; Gustavsson v County of Westchester, 264 AD2d 408). Correction Officer Henley testified that the walkway was treated at 8:00 a.m. and the maintenance supervisor walked the area on his daily inspection (see, Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874 [claimant fell on icy track; correction officer checked area daily; no evidence of notice or abnormally dangerous condition]). Notably, a number of inmates used the walkway prior to claimant's accident, without incident, and there were no complaints regarding the walkway. Nor was there any proof that the surface was abnormally dangerous or posed an unusual condition that differed significantly from the condition of any other walkway in winter (see, Saez v City of New York, 82 AD2d 782 [patches of snow and ice on sidewalk did not pose an unusually dangerous condition]). Thus, merely because a thin layer of snow remained and all the ice had not been removed from the walkway, does not constitute negligence (see, Gentile v Rotterdam Sq., 226 AD2d 973 [no negligence where a thin layer of snow remained and ice was not cleared from sidewalk]). Claimant failed to establish that defendant negligently maintained the walkway (see, Smith v State of New York, 260 AD2d 819; Boettcher v State of New York, 256 AD2d 882).
Finally, upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that the testimony of
claimant was not worthy of belief. Claimant was not a cooperative witness and was very evasive in her answers. Unlike defendant's witnesses, claimant was not forthright in her testimony and the Court finds that claimant's account of the alleged accident strains credulity.
Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved, is hereby GRANTED.


September 18, 2000
White Plains , New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

All references to the trial transcript are preceded by the letter "T".