New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LANE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-019-008, Claim No. 95460


Court dismissed claim in which Claimant alleged the State was liable for an inmate-on-inmate assault and neglecting to follow security procedures and policies for failure to establish a prima facie case.

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):

Claimant's attorney:
JOHN LANE, #89-A-8807, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Michael Friedman, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 29, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This Claim arises from an attack upon Claimant which occurred on June 25, 1995, while he was an inmate at Shawangunk Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Shawangunk"). The trial of this Claim was heard on May 10, 2000 at Sullivan Correction Facility with Claimant appearing
pro se. The Claim was bifurcated and this Decision addresses the issue of liability only.

Claimant alleges that the defendant State of New York (hereinafter "State") was negligent in 1) failing to provide adequate security in accordance with Shawangunk policy and procedure while escorting inmates from the recreation yard to the housing unit and 2) failing to place Claimant in protective custody after he was previously attacked on July 8, 1994.

On June 25, 1995, Claimant went to the Block A recreation yard and was returning to the housing unit under the direction of Correction Officer Travis when he was assaulted by two inmates, Maldonaldo and Mask. Correction Officer Travis, called as a witness by the State, confirmed he was on duty on the date in question and performed escort duty, which consisted of escorting inmates in and out of the recreation yard. Officer Travis recalled that as the inmates were returning into the housing unit Claimant ran up and "hid"[1]
behind him. The Officer discovered that Claimant had been injured so he instantly instituted a lockdown of all inmates and called in an emergency response. Officer Travis indicated that he did not see the assault; was not certain how or where the assault had occurred; or what parties were responsible for the same. Claimant sustained razor cuts to his face and chest which required treatment at the Shawangunk infirmary and subsequently at St. Luke's Hospital.

1. Shawangunk policy and procedure
It is Claimant's contention that the State did not adhere to its own policy and procedure while escorting inmates from the recreation yard to the housing unit. Thus, Claimant has the burden of proving by competent evidence that the State failed to provide adequate supervision to prevent that which could be reasonably foreseen. (
Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842; Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342). However, Claimant offered no evidence, other than his own testimony and opinion, that proper escort procedure and policy were not followed. To counter the Claimant's assertions, Officer Travis testified that the normal escort procedure and policy was complied with on the date of this incident just as it is routinely followed on a daily basis.

In weighing the testimony of Claimant versus that of Officer Travis, the Court finds Officer Travis' testimony most credible. Officer Travis was able to describe the procedures followed on the date of this incident, whereas Claimant could not specify one regulation violated by Officer Travis. In short, there was no credible proof, other than Claimant's own opinion, that the State failed to follow proper supervisory procedure while escorting inmates. Additionally, there is nothing to indicate the State had notice or opportunity to intervene and prevent the June 25, 1995 attack but negligently failed to do so. In sum, Claimant failed to meet his burden of proof on the allegation the State negligently provided security while escorting him from the recreation yard to the housing unit. Consequently, that portion of the Claim is dismissed due to Claimant's failure to establish a prima facie case.

2. Known enemies
Claimant also alleges the State was negligent in releasing him into the general population at Shawangunk in view of the fact Claimant was previously assaulted by a fellow inmate, Randy Velasco, with a sharp object on July 8, 1994. The State did not dispute the facts relating to this prior assault. Almost one year after the 1994 incident, but only nine days before the underlying attack, Claimant testified that he wrote a letter to Shawangunk Superintendent Louis F. Mann dated June 16, 1995 requesting an immediate transfer from the facility and protective custody until such time as the transfer could be arranged. (Cl. Ex. 1). Claimant testified he wrote this letter because he was fearful that other inmates would retaliate against him since he had informed prison officials that inmate Velasco was his attacker. Claimant asserted the State took no action in response to this letter and, as such, failed to properly protect him from the general population.

It is well-settled that the State may incur liability for an assault on an inmate by another inmate in any of the three following situations: (1) the victim is a known risk and the State failed to provide reasonable protection; (2) the State had notice that the assailants were particularly prone to perpetrating such an assault and failed to take proper precautionary measures; or (3) the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene and failed to do so. (
Sebastiano v State of New York, 112 AD2d 562; Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833; Schittino v State of New York, 262 AD2d 824, lv denied 94 NY2d 752).

Claimant's only potential evidence of notice in any respect to the State is his 1995 letter to the Superintendent. However, on cross-examination, the State established Claimant had no proof that this letter was ever sent to the Superintendent. Moreover, Claimant offered no credible explanation as to why this letter was written almost one year
after the 1994 Velasco incident, but coincidently nine days before the 1995 assault. In sum, the Court was not persuaded by Claimant's testimony that this letter was ever sent to or received by the Superintendent or, for that matter, actually written prior to the assault of June 25, 1995. As such, Claimant's position that the State obtained notice regarding his dangerous situation from his letter is found incredible.

arguendo, the Court were to make a factual determination that this letter was received by the Superintendent prior to the 1995 assault, Claimant's claim must still fail. First, Claimant offered nothing but his own speculation that the 1995 assault was in retaliation for or related in any way to the 1994 Velasco incident. Secondly, the State produced a document entitled "Refusal of Admission to Protective Custody" signed by Claimant on June 26, 1995--one day after the 1995 assault.[2] (State's Ex. A). Claimant did not deny signing this document or suggest that he felt compelled to sign as the result of any intimidation. As such, Claimant's refusal of protective custody the day after the second assault flies in the face of his current allegations. Finally, the Court received into evidence "Separation System" reports which do not include either inmate Maldonaldo or Mask on Claimant's known enemy list until after the 1995 assault. (State's Exs. B & C). Accordingly, the State was not on notice that either inmate Maldonaldo or Mask were known enemies to Claimant before the 1995 assault nor was there any proof offered that these assailants were particularly prone to perpetrating such an assault. Consequently, the facts of this case do not establish any basis for imposing liability against the State. As such, the State certainly cannot be held liable for failure to take precautionary measures to protect this inmate from "unknown" enemies or risks which were not reasonably foreseeable.

For the foregoing reasons it is the opinion of the Court that Claim No. 95460 be, and the same hereby is, DISMISSED. Any motions made at trial on which the Court previously reserved are hereby denied.


June 29, 2000
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the Court's trial notes.
The signed document reads as follows: "Please be advised that at this time I respectfully decline your offer of my admission to Protective Custody. Furthermore, I do not believe that I am in jeopardy by staying in General Population, nor will I hold New York State, Shawangunk Correctional Facility, or any of its employees responsible for any harm which might befall me while in General Population. In addition, I understand that if at any time I feel the need for Protective Custody, I may at that time request it." (State's Ex. A).