New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TOWNSEND V. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-015-503, Claim No. 96306, Motion No. M-61247


Expert medical testimony of a deviation from accepted medical standards is necessary to establish a prima facie case upon allegations that a nurse and a physician failed to properly diagnose and treat a swollen, discolored ankle after the injured party heard a "pop".

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):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
James P. Townsend, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Timothy P. Mulvey, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 29, 2000
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This is a claim by an inmate appearing pro se alleging that medical staff employed by the Department of Correctional Services committed negligence and medical malpractice with respect to the diagnosis and treatment of an injury to claimant's right ankle during February, 1997 at Marcy Correctional Facility.

Claimant testified that on February 6, 1997 he injured or sprained his right ankle while playing basketball at Marcy Correctional Facility. He testified that he heard a "snap"[1]
and could not walk as a result of the injury. He stated that at 4:00 p.m. he limped into the infirmary and was attended by a nurse. He testified that his right ankle was pink and swollen and that his requests for an Ace bandage, walking stick or crutches, and Motrin were denied, although he was provided Ibuprofen. Claimant stated that the nurse would not give him a medical excuse. Later that evening, claimant returned to the infirmary and once again the nurse would not issue a medical excuse.
On the following day, claimant went to sick call where a nurse issued a fourteen day medical excuse as well as an Ace bandage and Motrin for pain. Claimant stated that he was examined by a facility physician on February 10, 1997 and the doctor denied his request for a bottom bunk permit for the duration of the medical excuse. X rays were taken some thirty-eight days after the incident but no report of what those X rays disclosed was received into evidence. Claimant testified that he had pain in his ankle for five months following the incident and limped for six months. At the time of trial, claimant's sports activity was limited, the ankle bothered him while walking and he stated that he still had a limp. Upon cross-examination claimant conceded that he had no professional medical training. At the close of claimant's case defense counsel moved to dismiss the claim upon the ground that claimant had not established a prima facie case due to his failure to present any expert medical proof establishing that there was a deviation from accepted medical standards with respect to the treatment given his ankle injury. That motion will now be addressed.

Whether a claim is couched in terms of negligence or medical malpractice, if the issues involve conditions beyond the common knowledge of a fact finder expert medical proof will be required to sustain a recovery (
Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653). The diagnosis and treatment rendered by a medical provider to a person appearing with a discolored and swollen ankle and reporting that a "pop" was heard at the time of the incident presents issues beyond the common knowledge of a lay person requiring expert medical testimony as to whether there was a deviation from good and accepted standards of medical care (Leonard v Kinney Systems, Inc., 199 AD2d 470). Here, the claimant's failure to present any expert medical proof concerning the injuries he sustained, much less any competent proof that there was a deviation from accepted medical standards, requires the granting of the dismissal motion. In view of that ruling, motion M-61247 seeking preclusion and summary judgment is denied as moot.
The Clerk is directed to enter a judgment in accord with this decision.

March 29, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]All quotations are from the Court's trial notes.