New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GUZMAN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-016-006, Claim No. 96524, Motion No. M-60665


Synopsis


Pro se
claimant's motion to compel discovery in connection with his claim arising from his injury on a Department of Correctional Services bus granted in part and denied in part.

Case Information

UID:
2000-016-006
Claimant(s):
ARMANDO GUZMAN
Claimant short name:
GUZMAN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
96524
Motion number(s):
M-60665
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Armando Guzman
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: James E. Shoemaker, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 4, 2000
City:
New York
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

In his underlying claim, pro se claimant Armando Guzman alleges that he was injured when the driver of a Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) mini-bus in which claimant was traveling stopped short causing claimant to hit his face on a metal barrier. He also complains of his medical treatment following the incident. This is claimant's motion to compel discovery. At issue in this motion are the thirty-six items contained in claimant's Notice of Discovery and Inspection. In its opposition papers, defendant asserts that only three of these items relate to Guzman's claim as limited by an earlier order (one item of which defendant objects to on security grounds). Claimant asserts that all requested items should be produced. Claimant also seeks information in five "Demand[s] for Address[es]." These were not specifically addressed in defendant's opposition papers.

Guzman's claim, as served and filed, contained the following theories of state liability: that the driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle; that the state was negligent in failing to equip the vehicle with passenger safety restraints and also was negligent and reckless in the use of prisoner restraining chains; that the driver intentionally or recklessly slammed on the brakes, thus committing an assault and battery; and that the state was "deliberately indifferent" and failed to provide appropriate medical treatment.

In an order filed May 27, 1998, the Hon. Philip J. Patti dismissed those portions of Guzman's claim that alleged negligence arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle.

* * * * *
A review of Guzman's Notice of Discovery and Inspection indicates that the following items relate only to the dismissed portion of his claim, or otherwise are not material and necessary to the prosecution of his claim: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 27, 29, 30 and 34. These items request, for example, highway diagrams and maps, the transportation itinerary of the vehicle and documents relating to the conversion of vehicles for inmate transportation.

With respect to the remaining items:

As to items 1 and 24, defendant's response to claimant's Notice of Discovery and Inspection indicates that documents will be provided if they exist; as to item 25, a response has already been provided.

In items 5 and 36, claimant requests photographs of the vehicle, seeks to make a videotape of the vehicle and have the vehicle produced at his place of confinement in order that he may inspect it and have it photographed by a photographer provided by defendant. This is not necessary for the prosecution of Guzman's claim.

In items 9, 11 and 28, claimant seeks vehicle repair, safety inspection and maintenance records. These items are relevant, but only with respect to the particular bus that claimant traveled in on May 30, 1997 and only with respect to passenger safety restraints. Limiting the request in this way should address defendant's objection on the grounds of burden. As to defendant's objection on the grounds of security, the Court will perform an in camera review.

In item 10, claimant seeks "[p]risoner bus vehicle equipment manifest." Defendant objects on burden and security grounds. The only relevant information that might be gleaned from these records – information as to passenger safety restraints – may be obtained through other documents produced pursuant to this decision and order or through a witness or witnesses at trial and thus in view of security concerns, defendant need not produce documents responsive to item 10.

In item 12, claimant seeks "[p]risoner bus vehicle seat belt installation requirement records." Defendant objects on security and burden grounds. This information is relevant to Guzman's claim that the vehicle in which he traveled was not equipped with passenger safety restraints. Moreover, defendant has provided no details as to burden. Responsive documents should be produced for an in camera review.

In items 18, 20 and 31, claimant seeks DOCS policy documents concerning the transportation of inmates, such as directives and "policy procedure regulations." These documents relate to the fundamental security mission of correctional facilities; moreover, any relevant information that would be contained in such documents may obtained through other documents produced pursuant to this decision and order or through a witness or witnesses at trial.

In item 19, claimant seeks "DOCS employment training records in connection with the two particular correction officers responsible for transporting claimant to the Elmira Correctional [F]acility from the Downstate [F]acility on May 30, 1997." The only portions of such records which would be relevant to Guzman's claim would be training as to the provision of medical care during the transportation of inmates. The two officers (see below) should bring such documents to trial where a hearing and in camera review, if applicable, will be held pursuant to Civil Rights Law §50-a.

In items 21, 22, 23 and 26, claimant seeks DOCS policy documents relating to procedures and reporting of accidents and injuries occurring on vehicles transporting inmates. These documents also are rightly withheld on security grounds; in any event, information relevant to Guzman's claim may be obtained through a witness or witnesses at trial.

In items 32 and 35, claimant seeks general DOCS health service policy documents. Defendant states that it will provide copies of any requested pages of the DOCS Directive Health Services Policy Manual at $ .25 per page or notes that in the alternative, the volume is available at claimant's facility law library. Claimant asserts that the library copy is not updated. Defendant should ensure that the copy that is available to claimant in his facility law library is an updated copy.

Item 33 will be addressed in connection with claimant's "Demand[s] for Address[es]," below.
* * * * *
In claimant's "Demand[s] for Address[es]" (and in item 33 of his Notice of Discovery and Inspection), he seeks identifying information as to the officer driving the vehicle in which he was injured along with the escort officer and all inmates traveling on the bus. The Court expects that the trial of this claim will likely be scheduled in June 2000 at Sullivan Correctional Facility. Defendant should produce at trial the driver of the vehicle and escort officer. As to the inmate passengers, defendant should submit to the Court the names and current correctional facilities of such inmates (if still incarcerated), after which the Court will choose one or more inmates, based on geography, to appear at trial.

Claimant also seeks in his "Demand[s] for Address[es]" information as to those individuals who installed the steel barrier and who converted the bus for DOCS use. Claimant has nowhere asserted in his claim that the steel barrier was somehow improperly installed or that the bus was otherwise improperly "converted." Accordingly, the information sought is not necessary and relevant for the prosecution of claimant's case and need not be provided.
* * * * *
Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, having reviewed the parties' submissions[1], IT IS ORDERED that claimant's motion is granted to the extent that:
  1. If not already produced, and to the extent they exist, defendant shall produce to claimant within thirty (30) days of the filing of this decision and order documents responsive to items 1 and 24 of Claimant's Notice of Discovery and Inspection;
  2. Defendant shall produce to the Court for an in camera review within thirty (30) days of the filing of this decision and order:
a) ab documents responsive to items 9, 11 and 28 to the extent they relate to passenger safety restraints in the particular bus that claimant traveled in on May 30, 1997; and
b) abdocuments responsive to item 12.

In connection therewith, defendant may suggest proposed redactions in view of security concerns;
  1. Within thirty (30) days of the filing of this decision and order, defendant shall ensure that the copy of the DOCS Directive Health Services Policy Manual that is available to claimant in his facility law library is an updated copy;
  2. Within thirty (30) days of the filing of this decision and order, defendant shall provide to the Court a list of names and current correctional facility addresses (if still incarcerated) of all inmate passengers on the bus with claimant on May 30, 1997; and
  3. Defendant shall produce at the trial of this matter the correctional officer who drove the bus on which claimant rode on May 30, 1997 along with the escort officer. Such officers should bring to the trial all documents relating to their training as to the provision of medical care during the transportation of inmates. At trial, a hearing and in camera review, if applicable, will be held pursuant to Civil Rights Law §50-a.
IT IS ALSO ORDERED that claimant's motion is otherwise denied.


April 4, 2000
New York, New York

HON. ALAN C. MARIN
Judge of the Court of Claims




  1. [1]Along with the pleadings and defendant's response to claimant's notice of discovery and inspection, the Court reviewed claimant's notice of motion, accompanying affidavit, affidavit of good faith and four exhibits; defendant's December 10, 1999 letter in opposition; and claimant's response to defendant's opposition.