On the evening of November 17, 1997, Claimant slipped on the sidewalk located
in the front of the H-Block Administration Building at the Washington
Correctional Facility. Claimant alleges that he slipped on an accumulation of
snow and ice, and that the snow and ice had built up on the sidewalk in front of
the Administration Building as the result of a snowstorm that occurred on
and 15, 1997. He alleges that the State was negligent in maintaining the
sidewalk and is liable for the injuries he suffered.
The State as the owner of the Washington Correctional Facility had a duty to
maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition in view of all
circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of
the injury and the burden of avoiding the risk (
Preston v State of New York
, 59 NY2d 997).
Claimant testified that on November 17, 1997, after being notified by
Correction Officer Stark, he left his dorm to go to the H-Block Administration
Building to pick up photocopies he ordered. Claimant testified that it was not
snowing at that time nor had it snowed at all that day. However, Claimant
testified that there was four to six inches, maybe more, all over the facility
grounds at that time and proof was introduced at trial indicating that
approximately 12 inches of snow fell in the area between November 14
and 15, 1997 (Exhibit 1). Claimant proceeded to the Administration Building
where he picked up his photocopies and left. As he walked in front of the
building on the sidewalk, he slipped, but caught himself and did not fall.
Claimant testified that he immediately felt pain in his foot and was assisted by
another inmate back to his dorm where he then told Officer Stark what had
happened. According to Claimant, Officer Stark gave him Tylenol for the pain
and placed his name on the sick call roster. Claimant went to the infirmary the
next morning to seek treatment.
Jeffrey Huntington, the Plant Superintendent at the Washington Correctional
Facility, testified that the protocol for snow and ice removal at the facility
involved two components. The first component required civilian staff members to
remove snow from roadways, parking lots and any other area where machinery
needed to be used. The second component involves inmate work crews in removing
snow from, and sanding, the facility's sidewalks including the sidewalk in front
of the H-Block Administration Building where Claimant slipped.
According to Mr. Huntington, during off hours, evenings, nights and weekends,
the watch commander determines whether civilian and inmate crews are utilized
for snow and ice removal. The area in front of the H-Block Administration
Building, according to Mr. Huntington, is a high priority area because of the
heavy foot traffic there. Mr. Huntington testified that he recalled a snowstorm
on November 14
and 15, 1997, but no civilian employees were called in for snow and ice removal.
He testified that he could confirm this with his records. However, snow removal
in the area where Claimant slipped would be done by the inside utility gang
which is composed of inmates supervised by a correction officer. No logs are
kept of the work done by this crew.
Mr. Huntington testified that, as Plant Supervisor, he is required to regularly
inspect the premises of Washington Correctional Facility to determine if an
unreasonable amount of snow and ice has accumulated. He testified that he
received no notice of any snow or icy conditions at the Administration Building
on November 17, 1997, the day of Claimant's accident.
Both Claimant and Defendant agree that there was a snowstorm on November
and 15, 1997. Claimant testified that there was snow all over the grounds of
the facility, including the area where he fell, on November 17, 1997 though it
had not snowed that day. He also testified that he slipped on an accumulation
of snow as he walked along the sidewalk that evening and injured his foot. Given
that a significant amount of snow had fallen two to three days earlier and in
the absence of proof that some effort was made to remove the accumulation from
this high traffic sidewalk, Defendant is liable for any injuries Claimant
suffered as a result of the slip.
Claimant testified that he did not have any problems with his right foot prior
to this incident and that he felt pain in that foot immediately after he
slipped. After the slip, he returned to his dorm where he reported to Officer
Stark what had happened. The next morning
Claimant went to the Washington Correctional Facility infirmary where he was
examined and given crutches. No x-rays of Claimant's foot were taken at this
time. On November 19, 1997, Claimant was bused to Comstock Correctional
Facility. X-rays of his right foot revealed comminuted, oblique fractures
involving the fourth and fifth metatarsal and slight lateral displacement of the
distal portion of the fourth metatarsal in relation to the proximal portion.
Claimant's ambulatory health records from the various facilities where he has
been incarcerated were received in evidence (Claimant's 4). Claimant did not
produce any additional medical proof regarding his
Claimant returned to the Washington Correctional Facility and on November
, 1997, he was taken to Coxsackie Correctional Facility where a cast that
extended up to the knee was placed on his right foot. Claimant returned to the
Washington Correctional Facility and was placed in the infirmary for a week.
The cast was removed from Claimant's foot on December 30th, 1997. He was then
given a special brace to wear on his foot to further stabilize the bones and
spent a couple more days in the infirmary at the Washington Correctional
Facility. The ambulatory health records of Claimant indicate that he continued
to complain of pain in his right foot up to April, 1998.
In April 1998, Claimant tripped and fell while walking to the bathroom and
injured his right foot again. However, there is no competent proof that the
injury of April 1998 was causally related to the initial injury to the right
foot. In addition, no competent expert medical proof was offered to establish
that the injury suffered in November 1997 will have permanent consequences for
For his past pain and suffering, Claimant is awarded $12,500.
In an order filed June 19, 2000, the court directed the superintendent of
Franklin Correctional Facility, the correctional facility at which Claimant was
then incarcerated, to produce Claimant in Albany for the trial of this action.
The order also provided that in the event Claimant received an award in this
claim, the cost of producing him for the trial would be paid out of the
judgment. In accordance with the order, the Department of Correctional Services
is directed to provide to the court within twenty days of the filing of this
decision, an affidavit by a responsible and knowledgeable employee setting forth
the costs incurred in producing the Claimant at the trial of this claim. The
affidavit should also be served on the attorney for Claimant who will have until
the thirtieth day after filing of the decision to provide a response. In the
event that the affidavit setting forth the costs is not provided to the court
and the attorney within the specified twenty days, the right to recover such
costs will be deemed waived. Entry of judgment is stayed pending resolution of