New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DAVIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-015-520, Claim No. 99249


Inmate's claim for battery at hands of another inmate dismissed for failure to prove claimant was an assault risk and that State had ample notice of a threat of attack and failed to intervene to prevent it or alternatively proving the assailant was prone to perpetrating such assaults and State took no action to prevent the assault.

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:
Michael Davis, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Glenn C. King, EsquireStaff Attorney
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 4, 2000
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This is a claim brought by an inmate appearing pro se seeking to recover damages for the personal injuries allegedly sustained as the result of the negligence of employees of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) in permitting him to be assaulted by another inmate. Claimant alleged in his claim filed on November 4, 1998 and testified at trial that he was an inmate housed in a special housing unit (Company C-4) at the Clinton Correctional Facility. On January 23, 1998 at approximately 8:24 a.m. while returning from the shower to his cell he was attacked by a general population inmate named Reuben Vega. Claimant alleged in the claim that he was cut on the face by a sharp instrument and that he was stabbed twice in the right shoulder, twice in the back and once in the right side with an ice pick type weapon wielded by Vega. Claimant was taken to the Clinton Correctional Facility Infirmary and was thereafter transported by ambulance to Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Medical Center where he received treatment for his wounds. Claimant alleged at trial that Correction Officer W. Richards had violated the facility's policy and procedure by allowing a general population inmate into the keeplock area and by failing to clear the keeplock area of persons such as the assailant by means of a public address system announcement prior to allowing claimant to leave the locked shower area. Claimant offered no other testimony or documentation to support his allegations relative to the facility's policies or procedures regarding access to the special housing unit.

Claimant refused to display his wounds to the Court alleging that he was embarrassed to do so and offered no medical records or expert testimony regarding his injuries. The Court observed a scar on the left side of claimant's mouth approximately 2 ½ inches in length. At the close of claimant's proof the Court reserved decision on the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim for claimant's failure to prove a
prima facie case.
The defendant then called two witnesses: Correction Officer Wayne Richards and Lieutenant John Landry. Correction Officer Richards testified that he has been employed by DOCS for eighteen years, sixteen of which were at the Clinton Correctional Facility. He testified further that on the day in question he was assigned to C-Block (Company C-4) and was working the lock box on the 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift. The lock box is a secured position from which a correction officer is able to control access to various areas of the company. He testified that on the morning in question he had permitted claimant to enter the locked shower area and ten minutes later permitted claimant to return from the shower area. Richards acknowledged the presence of general population inmate Reuben Vega in the keeplock area at the time he permitted claimant to leave the shower to return to his cell but stated that Vega's presence was authorized since he was a porter assigned to bring food to C-4 inmates. Richards testified that shortly after claimant emerged from the shower area claimant and Vega began fighting. Richards then opened the end gate to allow additional correction officers to enter and stop the fight. Correction Officer Richards denied claimant's allegation that the public address system was regularly used to clear the floor before allowing C-4 keeplock inmates out of their cells. Richards also testified that prior to the incident he was unaware of any problem between Vega and the claimant and further asserted that claimant had never asked for protection from Vega.

Lieutenant John Landry testified that he has been employed by DOCS for twenty-three years, and has served at Clinton Correctional Facility for twenty-one years. Lieutenant Landry stated that he was C.O. Richard's immediate supervisor, was familiar with the facility's policy and procedure as it related to the operation of Company C-4 and, further, that the facility's procedures permitted the release of an inmate while a porter was on the block. He testified further that while the public address system might be used to announce chow or the movement of several inmates at one time, it would not be used to announce that one individual inmate was leaving his cell as alleged by the claimant. Finally, the lieutenant testified that prior to the incident he was unaware of any problem between the claimant and inmate Vega.

Claimant called no rebuttal witnesses. At the close of testimony defendant again moved to dismiss the claim based upon claimant's alleged failure to prove a
prima facie case.
The Third Department in
Stanley v State of New York, 239 AD2d 700, 701 held that to recover upon a claim alleging that DOCS failed to take reasonable precautions to protect an inmate from a foreseeable risk of attack a claimant must make a "showing that claimant was a known assault risk (see, Sebastiano v State of New York, supra) that the State, with ample notice of a threat of attack, had an opportunity to intervene and failed to do so (see, White v State of New York, 167 AD2d 646), or that the assailant was prone to perpetrating such an assault and that the State failed to take appropriate protective measures (see, Casella v State of New York, supra)." Claimant has failed to make such a showing. There is no evidence in the record that claimant was a known assault risk. There is no evidence that DOCS had notice of a threat of an attack and failed to intervene. There is no evidence that the assailant had a history of assaults. The sudden, unforeseeable event described by claimant will not give rise to liability on the part of the State.
The claim is dismissed for claimant's failure to establish a
prima facie case.
All motions not previously decided are denied.


December 4, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims