New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GREEN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-013-018, Claim No. 98433, Motion Nos. M-61483, CM-61577


Synopsis


Claimant's motion to strike "scandalous and prejudicial statements" made by Defendant in its answer is denied and Defendant's cross-motion to impose sanctions is also denied.

Case Information

UID:
2000-013-018
Claimant(s):
SHAWN GREEN
Claimant short name:
GREEN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
98433
Motion number(s):
M-61483
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-61577
Judge:
PHILIP J. PATTI
Claimant's attorney:
SHAWN GREEN, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General of the State of New York
BY: JAMES E. SHOEMAKER, ESQ. Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 31, 2000
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision


On May 17, 2000, the following papers were read on Claimant's motion to strike and Defendant's cross-motion for sanctions:

1.Notice of Motion

2. Claimant's Unverified Affirmation in Support

3. Memorandum of Law

4. Notice of Cross-Motion

5. Affirmation in Opposition and Annexed Exhibits

6. Claimant's Response to Cross-Motion

7. Claim and Answer

8.Claimant's Document Requests, Interrogatories and Notices to Admit; Defendant's Responses

9. Defendant's Bill of Particulars

Claimant seeks $50,000.00, representing the damages he says he incurred when he was allegedly deprived of nasal spray while he was confined to a Southport Correctional Facility Special Housing Unit (SHU).

In the present motion, Claimant asks me to strike "scandalous and prejudicial statements" made by Defendant in Paragraphs 2, 6 and 7 of its answer. Defendant argues that the motion is frivolous and seeks sanctions pursuant to 22 NYCRR 130.1-1.

I have reviewed these paragraphs and conclude that there is nothing remotely scandalous or frivolous about them. Paragraph 2 is a general denial of three paragraphs of the claim. Paragraphs 6 and 7 assert the affirmative defense of comparative negligence and ask that any recovery be reduced to take into account Claimant's culpable conduct in this case.

At first blush, comparative negligence might seem to be an unusual defense to assert in this case. Defendant's bill of particulars makes clear, however, that the "culpable conduct" it is referring to is the misbehavior Claimant engaged in that precipitated his Southport SHU confinement. This culpable conduct is relevant, according to Defendant, since certain nasal medications are not permitted in Southport SHU because they are flammable and pose a safety and security risk.

Though Claimant's papers are a bit vague, it appears that his real objection to paragraphs 6 and 7 of the answer derives not from the phraseology of these paragraphs, but rather from a concern that his case against Defendant would be prejudiced if Defendant was permitted to introduce evidence at trial describing the misbehavior that brought about Claimant's confinement at Southport.

This concern is a legitimate one. "Even if other acts evidence is directly probative of a material issue, it is not admissible unless its probative value exceeds its potential for delay, surprise and prejudice" (Martin, Capra & Rossi, NY Evidence, §4.8.11 at 261). However, it does not follow that Defendant's comparative fault defense should be stricken. There are ways to tailor Defendant's proof at trial so that Defendant may present its defense without any potential prejudice to Claimant.[1]

Because the means Claimant has suggested to address a legitimate issue is inappropriate, his motion to strike is denied. Because the issue he raised was not a frivolous one and because it does not mirror his earlier efforts to strike Defendant's defenses, the motion for sanctions is denied.



July 31, 2000
Rochester, New York

HON. PHILIP J. PATTI
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]
If Claimant remains concerned about this issue, he should bring it to the Court's attention at the start of the trial.