New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RAVENELL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-017-007, Claim No. 97691, Motion No. M-61235


Synopsis


The Court granted claimant's motion to compel defendant to respond to certain interrogatories on the ground that the information requested was material and necessary to prosecution of the Claim and was not unduly burdensome, unreasonable or prejudicial.

Case Information

UID:
2000-017-007
Claimant(s):
THEODORE RAVENELL
Claimant short name:
RAVENELL
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
97691
Motion number(s):
M-61235
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
ANDREW P. O'ROURKE
Claimant's attorney:
Bennet Goodman, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot L. Spitzer
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Michael A. Zeytoonian, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 14, 2000
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

The following papers, numbered one through three, were read and considered on


claimant's motion to compel defendant to respond to certain interrogatories:


Notice of Motion, Attorney Affirmation, Exhibits and Affirmation

of Good Faith................................................................................................1


Affirmation in Opposition..................................................................................2


Reply Affirmation..............................................................................................3

In January of 1998, claimant filed the above-referenced claim alleging that he received serious physical injuries when he touched exposed electrical wires on a coffee pot while attempting to regain his balance after he slipped on water emanating from a water fountain while incarcerated at the Fishkill Correctional Facility. On May 11, 1999, defendant filed a Verified Bill of Particulars in which it alleged that the claim failed to state a cause of action because it failed to allege "any duty of ownership, maintenance or control over the instrumentality which allegedly caused claimant's alleged injuries" (see, Notice of Motion, Exh. 2) -- i.e., the coffee pot. On November 26, 1999, claimant submitted interrogatories to the Superintendent of the Fishkill Correctional Facility, inquiring as to the ownership of the water fountain and coffee pot in question (see, Notice of Motion, Exh. 4). Specifically, claimant requested that the Superintendent answer the following questions:

"(1) Are the water fountain and coffee pot owned by the State of New York?

(2) If not, by whom are the water fountain and coffee pot owned?

(3) If the ownership of either the water fountain or coffee pot is unknown, are inmates of the Fishkill Correctional Facility permitted to bring such items into the Fishkill Correctional Facility?

(a) If so, under what circumstances?

(b) If so, must the items brought in be documented in some way with the Department of Correctional Services? If so, explain the documentation process."

The Court finds that the requested information on the ownership of the water fountain and coffee pot is material and necessary to the prosecution of this claim, particularly in light of defendant's stated position that the claim is defective because it fails to allege that defendant owned, controlled or maintained the items in question (see, CPLR 3101[a]). The Court further finds that the questions have been requested in good faith, are limited in scope and are so phrased as to not be overly burdensome, abusive or improper (see, Barouh Eaton Allen Corp. v International Business Machines Corp., 76 AD2d 873, 874). Moreover, the fact that claimant could have requested that information during previous depositions of State employees whom defendant contends "had some knowledge of the relevant facts" (see, Affirmation in Opposition, ¶ 2 [emphasis supplied]) does not prevent claimant from seeking the requested information through interrogatories. Under the liberal discovery statutes enacted in this State, "[a] party is generally free to choose both the devices it wishes to use and the order in which to use them" and the courts will intervene only in the presence of apparent abuse of that process (see, Barouh Eaton Allen Corp. v International Business Machines Corp., 76 AD2d 873, 874-875), which is not evident here.

Accordingly, claimant's motion to compel defendant to respond to the interrogatories at issue is GRANTED and defendant is directed to respond to those questions within sixty (60) days of service by the Clerk's office of a certified copy of this decision and order upon defendant's attorney (see, CPLR 3133).

The Clerk's office is directed to serve a certified copy of this order upon defendant's attorney and claimant.


June 14, 2000
White Plains, New York

HON. ANDREW P. O'ROURKE
Judge of the Court of Claims