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.
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
* * * * *
"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,
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.
For the foregoing reasons, the claim of Henry Fielder is dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.