New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BLAKE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-019-010, Claim No. 85065


Damages Decision - Liability found against State by Judge Patti in Decision filed 12/19/97 - Damages awarded to Claimant in the amount of $60,000. $35,000 for past and $25,000 for future.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Michele M. Walls, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 29, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This Decision addresses the damages sustained by Claimant for personal injuries caused by the negligence of the State of New York in connection with an assault by a fellow inmate which occurred at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Shawangunk") on February 19, 1991. Liability in this matter was previously found against the State of New York by the Hon. Philip J. Patti in a Memorandum Decision, dated November 26, 1997.[1]

The basically uncontroverted testimony of the Claimant, and the witnesses called on his behalf, establish that on February 19, 1991, Claimant was released into the recreational yard of the special housing unit at Shawangunk. The Claimant was the second inmate to be released into the recreation yard that morning of February 19, 1991. After the door to the yard had been locked behind him, and before his handcuffs could be removed from behind his back, Claimant was charged at and savagely attacked by the other inmate in the yard, Stephen Gonzalez. Gonzalez had armed himself with a razor and attacked and assaulted Claimant for approximately 20 to 30 seconds before prison officials could reopen the entrance door and separate Claimant from Gonzalez by pulling him back inside to safety. Claimant testified that during that 20 to 30 seconds he was slashed at repeatedly by Gonzalez; was in fear of imminent death; was aware of and suffering great pain; and that his clothing, face and ground were drenched with blood.

Claimant was transported to the prison hospital where the nurses administered some gauze and attempted to stop and minimize the bleeding. Claimant's blood pressure was low and he was "shocky"[2]
from extreme loss of blood. He was then transferred to St. Luke's Hospital and upon arrival at the emergency room was immediately evaluated. It was discovered that Claimant had lacerations to his scalp and neck, as well as a 20 centimeter laceration through the right ear and temporalis fascia; a laceration to the left nostril; a laceration to the left corner of the mouth; and a laceration to the left jaw. The lacerations to the Claimant's scalp and neck were sutured in the emergency room and his bleeding was stabilized with clamps, gauze and pressure. He was then transported to surgery where he was met by Christine E. Jelalian, M.D., a plastic surgeon, who surgically closed the 20 centimeter laceration through the right ear and temporalis fascia, as well as the 1 centimeter laceration to the left nostril, the 2 centimeter laceration to the left corner of the mouth, and the 10 centimeter laceration to the left mandible. Dr. Jelalian, who testified at trial as a fact witness only, described the nature and dimension of the lacerations which she observed and testified that she would have used anywhere from 3 to 5 stitches per centimeter to close the previously identified cuts. Consequently, with lacerations totaling approximately 33 centimeters, Dr. Jelalian believed that she inserted anywhere from approximately 100 to 165 stitches to repair the injuries sustained by Claimant. Claimant testified that the pain he endured between the time of the attack and the time he received medical attention at St. Luke's Hospital was excruciating.

After completion of the surgical procedure, Claimant was returned to Shawangunk. Claimant testified that it took at least one full month in order for him to get sufficient strength back to ambulate on his own. He testified that he endured substantial pain for that three to four week period and could not even place his head on a pillow to sleep. The pain was most severe in and around his right ear which had in fact been sliced in half as a result of the assault. Claimant testified that he suffered loss of feeling, numbness, and loss of motion in some facial muscles around the right temporalis fascia that lasted approximately four months. He testified at trial, however, that he now has basically full range of motion in all facial muscles and almost all feeling has returned except for loss of feeling over a portion of his right ear.

The Court viewed the Claimant's scars and finds that scarring is still visible on the right side of his face and through the right ear; that the laceration and scarring to the left nostril, left corner of mouth, and left jaw have all healed well, but are visible upon close examination; and the laceration on his scalp and neck also have healed well. No further plastic surgery has been performed, nor is any anticipated. Claimant also called Edward Rudder, a Psychologist at Shawangunk, who testified that while he treated the Claimant for various psychological disorders prior to February 19, 1991, as a result of this attack Claimant suffers from anxiety, sleep disorders, and nightmares. However, no testimony was elicited as to whether or not the anxiety, sleep disorders, and nightmares will be permanent in nature, or if limited, of what duration.

Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds that the Claimant will be fairly compensated for his injuries as follows:

Past pain and suffering, including the
assault and past emotional distress $35,000.00

Future pain and suffering, including

emotional distress, scarring, and
psychologically associated disorders $25,000.00

Claimant is thus awarded a total of $60,000.00.

Interest is awarded on the sum of $60,000.00 from November 26, 1997, the date of the liability determination, (Love v State of New York, 78 NY2d 540), at the statutory rate, which the Court finds presumptively reasonable. (Rodriguez v N.Y. City Housing Authority, 91 NY2d 76).


June 29, 2000
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Blake v State of New York, Ct Cl., Patti, J., Claim No. 85065, filed December 19, 1997 [Liability Decision].
Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are taken from the Court's trial notes.