New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-015-112, Claim No. 102081, Motion Nos. M-62299, M-62496


Inmate's claim to recover for loss of personal property. Cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional harm dismissed as against public policy. Claimant's motion to amend claim to add negligence cause of action granted where defendant opposed motion strictly on grounds it lacked merit.

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):
M-62299, M-62496
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Rahmir Williams, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Joel L. Marmelstein, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 20, 2000
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment seeking an order dismissing claimant's cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress on the grounds that New York law does not recognize such a cause of action against the State is granted. Claimant's separate motion seeking leave of Court to amend the claim to assert causes of action in negligence is likewise granted. Claimant is an inmate at Marcy Correctional Facility who instituted this claim seeking money damages arising out of the confiscation and alleged loss of certain personal property seized by correction officials from his cell during a pre-transfer "cell frisk" on November 23, 1999. The officer conducting the frisk filed an inmate misbehavior report alleging a violation of Rule 105.12 (7 NYCRR 270.2 [B][6][iii]) which, according to the author of the misbehavior report, prohibits the use of "unauthorized organizational insignia" (see Exhibit B attached to defendant's motion). A copy of the misbehavior report was served upon the claimant on December 1, 1999 and a Tier III hearing was held on December 4, 1999. At the hearing the Hearing Officer (Captain Testa) determined that the facts did not support a finding that claimant had violated Rule 105.12 which, in actuality, prohibits an inmate from conducting religious services and making speeches and addresses other than those approved by the Superintendent or his designee. As a result of his findings, Captain Testa dismissed the charge against claimant but in doing so refused to return the confiscated material. The material in question consists of twenty-five pages of written or printed matter which the claimant alleged at the hearing, and continues to allege on his motion, is religious in nature. Upon being advised that the material would not be returned at the conclusion of the hearing despite the dismissal of the misbehavior charge, claimant asked for permission to send the material home. Captain Testa advised claimant that, alternatively, he could seek the permission of the Superintendent to obtain the return of the material and authorization to possess it at the facility. Claimant's subsequent request for permission to possess the material was denied and he thereafter signed a disbursement form to authorize the sending of the material to his home. Claimant alleges that the designated recipient received only 20 of the 25 pages and that several of the twenty pages actually received had been damaged.

Claimant subsequently commenced an article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court, Oneida County, seeking the return of the materials which had been sent home. Supreme Court denied the petition in a decision dated August 9, 2000 (see, defendant's Exhibit E). The instant claim was filed on March 8, 2000. Claimant seeks to recover money damages for the negligent loss of the five missing pages of text and for having been negligently deprived of the use of the material. He alleges that such deprivation caused him to become despondent and to attempt suicide.

The claimant's proposed amended claim contains many of the same allegations as the original claim plus an allegation that claimant should not have been deprived of the material without having been charged with a rule violation, that he should have been issued a contraband slip, that the material should have been stored in a safe place and that he should have been afforded an appropriate hearing to determine his right to possess the material. He further alleges in the proposed amended claim that the Superintendent of the facility failed to use proper procedure to determine whether the materials "fit the standards of the Department of Corrections." Claimant seeks money damages resulting from these allegedly negligent acts on the part of DOCS officials and employees.

Defendant's motion to dismiss the cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress must be granted. It is settled that public policy prohibits such a cause of action against the State for the acts of its employees or agents (see, Wheeler v State of New York, 104 AD2d 496, 498).

The claimant's motion, as noted above, seeks leave of Court to amend the claim to assert a negligence cause of action stemming from the acts alleged in the original claim and those additional acts or omissions set forth above in this decision and order. A motion to amend a pleading pursuant to CPLR § 3025, which has been adopted for practice in this Court pursuant to 22 NYCRR 206.7 (b), shall be freely granted. Such a motion is committed to the Court's discretion to be determined on a sui generis basis, with the widest possible latitude being extended to the Court (Murray v City of New York, 43 NY2d 400). In the absence of prejudice or surprise, neither of which were alleged by the defendant in opposition to claimant's motion, leave to amend a pleading should be granted unless the proposed amendment is clearly and patently insufficient on its face (see, Williams v Ludlow's Sand & Gravel Co., 122 AD2d 612). In its opposition to claimant's motion the State merely argues that the motion should be denied because the proposed amendment has no merit. The legal sufficiency or merit of a proposed amendment will not be examined on a motion seeking leave to amend unless insufficiency or lack of merit is clear and free from doubt (Sentry Ins. Co. v Kero-Sun, Inc., 122 AD2d 204). Claimant's proposed amended claim asserting that prison officials may have negligently breached a duty to treat his materials in a specified manner pursuant to prison regulations is not patently insufficient on its face; and absent even an allegation of prejudice or surprise claimant's motion to amend the pleading is granted.

Claimant shall file an original, verified amended claim containing the same allegations set forth in the proposed amended claim attached to his notice of motion with the Clerk of the Court and shall serve a copy of it upon the office of the Attorney General personally or by certified mail return receipt requested within 40 days of the date of filing of this decision and order. The defendant shall have 30 days thereafter to file and serve an amended answer.

December 20, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated August 30, 2000;
  2. Affirmation of Joel L. Marmelstein dated August 30, 2000 with exhibits;
  3. Answering affidavit of Rahmir Williams sworn to September 14, 2000, with exhibits;
  4. Notice of motion sworn to October 3, 2000 with exhibit;
  5. Affirmation of Joel L. Marmelstein dated October 19, 2000.