New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SANCHEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-015-526, Claim No. 98056


Synopsis


Inmate claimant failed to offer proof of actual or constructive notice of snowy condition of walkway resulting from recent storm. Absent such proof at trial claim for negligence dismissed on defendant's motion. Claimant abandoned cause of action based upon denial of prompt and appropriate medical attention by offering no proof in that regard.

Case Information

UID:
2000-015-526
Claimant(s):
HOMERO SANCHEZ
Claimant short name:
SANCHEZ
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
98056
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Homero Sanchez, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Timothy P. Mulvey, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 20, 2000
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision
This is a claim by a pro se inmate to recover damages for a fracture of his left little finger sustained when he slipped on a snow covered walkway at Marcy Correctional Facility. Although the language of the claim suggests otherwise, it appears that claimant was injured on January 18, 1998 at approximately 8:20 p.m. when he slipped as he was exiting the Bubble, a gymnasium located at the facility. The facility's medical records demonstrate that claimant sought attention for the injury at approximately 8:45 p.m. that evening. The language of the claim suggests it is based upon the alleged denial of prompt and appropriate medical attention but claimant offered no testimony at trial to support such a theory of recovery. An interpreter was used at the trial since the claimant does not speak English.

Claimant testified that he entered the Bubble on the night in question at approximately 7:00 p.m. He stated that it was snowing and that it had snowed the whole day and the previous night. He testified that he does not know when it stopped snowing but was sure that it was not snowing at the time he fell and was injured. He alleges that he slipped on snow which had accumulated on a walkway near the revolving door of the Bubble and that when he fell he landed on both hands injuring his finger. He was somewhat confused concerning the time that he first visited the infirmary following the accident, but on cross-examination conceded that he might have sought medical attention that same night. It was ultimately determined that claimant had sustained a fracture of the left little finger which was corrected by surgery. Claimant alleges that he is unable to straighten the finger and that he experiences pain "sometimes when it is cold."

The defendant's witnesses included Pamela Reese, a registered nurse on duty on the night of claimant's visit to the infirmary and Fred Pumilio, the facility's fire and safety officer. Ms. Reese, whose memory was refreshed by the facility's medical records (Exhibit A), testified that claimant reported to the infirmary on the night of January 18, 1998 complaining of pain in the pinky finger of his left hand. The finger was swollen and appeared to be dislocated. She testified that the medical record indicates that claimant jammed the finger playing basketball. According to Ms. Reese, she contacted the physician on call and obtained a prescription for pain medication, applied a splint to claimant's finger and made an appointment for claimant to see the doctor the following day. The doctor's notes set forth in the medical records for claimant's visit on January 19, 1998 indicate that claimant fractured the pinky of his left hand playing basketball. The records further indicate another infirmary visit occurred on January 21, 1998 and the final entry on Exhibit A indicates claimant had "returned from ortho surgery admitted x 24 hr. bed #3."

The defendant's other witness, the fire and safety officer, testified that his duties include maintaining records of the facility related to compliance with health and safety regulations, including reports of accidents and injuries. He testified that although he was not the fire and safety officer in January 1998 he conducted a search of the facility's records and found a report of claimant's accident. He did not, however, produce a copy of such report and the Court has not considered his testimony in arriving at the decision contained herein.

Claimant did not extensively cross-examine the defendant's witnesses but offered what may be deemed rebuttal testimony regarding that portion of the medical reports which indicate that his injury occurred while playing basketball. Claimant testified that he has never played basketball and does not know how to play basketball and that he did not report such information to the medical personnel at the facility. He testified further that Nurse Reese does not speak Spanish and he does not speak English and the State should have produced the interpreter through which he would have communicated the information contained in the medical record relative to the happening of the accident.

For purposes of this decision the Court will accept claimant's account of the facts surrounding the events giving rise to his injury.

"It is well settled that a landowner has a reasonable time in which to address a storm-related snow or ice condition on its property subsequent to the cessation of the storm and is not required to take any corrective actions while a storm is still in progress" (
Reynolds v Sead Dev. Group, 257 AD2d 940). To establish a prima facie case of negligence against a governmental entity for injuries sustained due to a fall upon snow or ice the injured party must establish "actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition and a reasonably sufficient time from the end of the storm which created the condition to remedy it" (Urena v New York City Tr. Auth., 248 AD2d 377, 378). Absent such proof liability cannot be imposed against the landowner (Chapman v City of New York, 268 AD2d 498). Here, claimant testified that he has no knowledge as to when the storm, which admittedly was in progress when he entered the Bubble, ceased. Moreover, claimant offered no testimony that the defendant had notice of the icy condition of the walkway prior to his fall (Grillo v New York City Trans. Auth., 214 AD2d 648). Under such circumstances liability would have to be predicated upon speculation that the storm ended shortly after claimant entered the Bubble in order to afford the defendant sufficient time to clear the snow from the area in which he fell. None of the proof offered at trial supports such an inference. Moreover, claimant submitted no proof that the condition upon which he slipped was caused by weather conditions pre-existing the storm in progress. Consequently, claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case of liability against the State and he may not recover for his injury.
The Clerk is directed to enter a judgment in accord with this decision.

December 20, 2000
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims