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
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; Correction Law §137). 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.