New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WOODS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-011-107, Claim No. 93666


Synopsis


Dismissal of claim for cause of action setting forth battery based upon allegation that Claimant was physically attacked by two correction officers.

Case Information

UID:
2000-011-107
Claimant(s):
OMAR WOODS
Claimant short name:
WOODS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
93666
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS J. McNAMARA
Claimant's attorney:
Omar Woods, Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General(Kevan J. Acton, Esq., Assistant Attorney General)
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 17, 2000
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
The claim sets forth a cause of action for battery based upon an allegation that Claimant was physically attacked by two correction officers on November 2, 1995 at Great Meadow Correctional Facility.

The elements of a claim for battery are (1) bodily contact, which is (2) harmful or offensive and (3) made with intent (
Masters v Becker, 22 AD2d 118).
Claimant testified that on the date of the incident he was working on the Special Housing Unit feed-up crew and that he became involved in a dispute with Correction Officer Chris Hughes who was supervising the crew. Claimant contended that food that was supposed to be given to inmates was given to correction officers instead. Claimant testified that he refused to continue working and was told by Officer Hughes that he was being placed on keeplock and that Officer Hughes then began to escort him back to his cell. According to Claimant the two went down a flight of stairs on the way to his cell and in the corridor at the bottom of the stairs Officer Hughes struck him in the face with a clenched fist. Claimant testified that as other officers responded to the scene he had his hands on the wall with his arms and legs spread. Claimant further testified that one of the responding officers, Pete Bates, struck him twice on the leg and twice on the arm with a baton. According to Claimant, he was in the pat frisk position and not resisting at the time he was struck with the baton.

Defendant offers a different version of the events contending that whatever force was used was necessary to restrain Claimant. Justification is a defense to an action for battery (2 NY PJI 26 [Supp]). Justification in using physical force exists for a correction officer when an inmate resists or disobeys any lawful direction and it is necessary to maintain order or enforce observation of discipline (Penal Law §35.10[2]; Correction Law §137[5]). To establish the defense, Defendant must demonstrate that the officer used objectively reasonable force (see,
Higgins v City of Oneonta, 208 AD2d 1067).
Officer Hughes testified that on the day of the incident Claimant did not want to do the job he had been assigned by Officer Hughes and that he attempted to have other inmates stop working as well. The officer decided to place Claimant on keep lock status and he testified that he called to have another officer escort Claimant to his cell. However, according to Officer Hughes, because Claimant was instigating other inmates, the officer decided it was better to move Claimant out of the area right away. Officer Hughes testified that after descending a flight of stairs, Claimant turned and pushed him in the chest and hit him in the left ear. Officer Hughes grabbed Claimant by the shirt and tried to get a hold of him. As the two struggled Officer Bates arrived and used his baton to subdue Claimant.

Officer Bates testified that he was assigned as the escort officer the day of the incident and

was sent to escort Claimant to his cell. As he arrived on the gallery, he saw Claimant assaulting Officer Hughes. He testified that he ran to assist Officer Hughes and when he reached the two it was necessary to use force to get Claimant under control. According to Officer Bates, he struck Claimant three times with his baton.
Claimant contended at trial that Officer Hughes violated procedure by leaving the crew he was supervising to escort Claimant back to his cell. As noted above, Officer Hughes testified that he called for someone to escort Claimant but that Claimant was instigating other inmates to participate in a work stoppage and he, Officer Hughes, took Claimant out of the area to avoid a larger problem. Officer Hughes' account is supported by the fact that Officer Bates, the escort officer, arrived on the scene to escort Claimant. Claimant for his part testified that he had refused to work but was not calling for other inmates to participate in a work stoppage. If this is true, there would have been no reason for Officer Hughes to remove Claimant from the immediate area while they waited for the escort. In addition, the facility health services report (Exh. A) prepared following the incident indicates that Officer Hughes' left ear was red and that his right elbow was red and swollen. These findings are consistent with the testimony by Officer Hughes that Claimant struck him in the left ear and that he hit his right elbow while struggling with Claimant. The findings are inconsistent with Claimant's version in which he did not strike Officer Hughes and there was no struggle.

Based upon the foregoing, the accounts of Officer Hughes and Officer Bates are credited and the court finds that the force employed by them was justified. Accordingly, the claim is dismissed.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.


August 17, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. THOMAS J. MCNAMARA
Judge of the Court of Claims