New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FIELDER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-016-082, Claim No. 99564


Claim of pro se inmate alleging inadequate medical treatment following football injury was dismissed.

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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Henry Fielder
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Mary Kavaney, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 15, 2000
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Pro se claimant Henry Fielder asserts that following the injury of his finger during a football game at Otisville Correctional Facility, he received inadequate medical treatment. The claim was tried at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility on August 2, 2000. Fielder testified on his own behalf. Defendant called no witnesses.
Fielder testified that on Saturday, October 3, 1998, he injured the fourth finger on his left hand while playing flag football in the recreation yard. He reported the injury to an officer and was sent to the facility medical clinic, where he was seen by a nurse. The nurse gave him ice and told him to come back during "sick call" the following Monday. Fielder explained that he did go to sick call on Monday morning and was told to come back in the afternoon, so that a doctor could see him. He stated that the doctor gave him pain medication and told him to refrain from sports for a period of time. Fielder testified that when he left the clinic that day, he was still in pain, adding that no x-rays had been taken at that point. Two days later, on October 7, Fielder went to the clinic and was taken outside to Horton Medical Center for x-rays. He stated that upon his return from the hospital, he asked an officer whether his x-ray results had come back and was told to ask a doctor.

Claimant said that on October 14, he went back to sick call because he was still in pain. He was given pain medication and told that his x-ray results were not in yet. He recalled that on October 15, he received an appointment card from the clinic to go to Horton Medical Center on November 5, adding that he was upset he would have to wait that long. On October 27, Fielder went back to the clinic again because he was still experiencing pain. He was again told that his x-ray results were not in yet and was given more pain medication.

Fielder testified that on October 28, he filed a grievance complaining of a lack of treatment and diagnosis, noting that he still had no results from his x-rays. He said that on November 2, 1998, he went before the grievance committee and showed the members his finger, which he said was still bruised and which he described as "deformed." According to Fielder, the committee -- comprised of two inmates and two officers -- recommended that he be given immediate medical care.[1]
Fielder recollected that on October 31, he telephoned members of his family about his concerns and they called the Superintendent.
Fielder summarized that at that point, he had had three conversations with a doctor and twelve with a nurse and he was still "kept in the dark" as to his injuries. He said that during this period, he was unable to sleep at night because of the pain. He added that for a while he could not participate in sports or lift weights and that currently he has to limit the weights he uses. Fielder also explained that prior to his injury, he worked in the reception area on tasks such as handling packages and taking patients to the infirmary. After his injury, he was put on light duty and is still on such light duty.

Fielder recalled that on November 10, he went to sick call and a nurse told him that x-rays showed his finger was broken. Exhibit 1, a Horton Medical Center Diagnostic Imaging Department report for the October x-ray, indicates that "[t]here is a chip fracture at the base of the distal phalanx fourth finger of indeterminate age. No dislocation is seen." Under defendant's objection, Fielder testified that from that date until December 1, when another x-ray was taken, he was provided with no "meaningful treatment," although he did not elaborate. Nor were any medical records submitted into evidence for the period of November 10 to December 1.

Fielder stated that after the second x-ray, he was told there was a consultation "in the works" and on January 29, 1999, he was given a splint at an outside hospital. He was also provided with physical therapy at Coxsackie Correctional Facility. He was given approximately nine monthly sessions beginning in March of 1999. Fielder stated that he was told to exercise the finger and was also told that he might never regain full control over the finger.

* * * * *

"It is fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons."
Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789, 552 NYS2d 189 (3d Dept 1990), lv denied, 76 NY2d 701, 557 NYS2d 878 (1990). However, "[w]hile the State has a duty to render adequate medical services to inmates without undue delay, in order for the State to be liable it must be shown that the delays in diagnosis and/or treatment were a proximate or aggravating cause of the claimed injury . . ." (citation omitted). Marchione v State of New York, 194 AD2d 851, 854-55, 598 NYS2d 592, 594 (2d Dept 1993). In this case, Fielder failed to show that any delays aggravated or worsened his injury. Other than his unsupported assertion that had he received certain treatment earlier, his finger would be better off, he presented no evidence that any delays aggravated or worsened his injury. For example, he failed to prove by competent medical evidence that had he received a splint, physical therapy or some other treatment at an earlier date, his finger would have healed differently. See, e.g., Cain v State of New York, Ct Cl filed 6/24/98, Ruderman, J. (unreported).
For the foregoing reasons, the claim of Henry Fielder is dismissed.


November 15, 2000
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

  1. [1]Exhibit 2, claimant's grievance form, indicates that the committee responded to claimant's grievance's on November 10, 1998, after it was learned, as set forth below, that the x-ray showed a chip fracture: it was recommended "that grievant be granted immediate medical attention due to x-ray finding of break in finger and need for re-setting."