New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JACKSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-019-015, Claim No. 95981


Court found State had actual notice of a dangerous condition of water leaking onto walkway. Claimant conceded the water was readily observable and that he had prior knowledge of the water leak problem. Liability was apportioned 25% (State), 75% (Claimant).

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: Belinda Wagner, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 18, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, Nathaniel Jackson a
pro se inmate, brings this Claim against the State of New York alleging injury as a result of negligent maintenance of the gallery walkway area in the Special Housing Unit at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Shawangunk"). The trial of this Claim occurred on July 12, 2000, at the Sullivan Correctional Facility and this Decision addresses the issue of liability.

In August of 1995, Claimant became a resident of the Special Housing Unit at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility. After his arrival Claimant noted that whenever it rained or snowed, water would accumulate on the gallery walkway area in the Special Housing Unit. Apparently, the water was leaking from the exercise yard through the wall onto the gallery walkway. The State called current Shawangunk Correctional Facility Maintenance Director Richard Stokes, who acknowledged that the seeping of water through the wall, and the puddling on the gallery walkway, has been a recurring problem since at least December of 1994. The State has made numerous attempts at repair of this problem, all to no avail. He testified that work is currently pending for the summer season 2000 to place a liner around the entire exercise yard which would channel water directly to a drain in the center of the exercise yard and keep it from accumulating along the wall and then seeping through onto the gallery walkway. Moreover, one of the Claimant's witnesses, Correction Officer G. Freer, testified that this problem has had at least a ten year history, and that he and the staff are aware of prior accidental falls in the area of the gallery walkway. In fact, Officer Freer himself slipped and fell in this area as a result of water accumulating on the walkway.

On March 27, 1997 Claimant filed a grievance alleging that, for the past eighteen months, every time it rained or snowed outside "puddles of water appear on the gallery" walk area and it is impossible to avoid walking in these puddles and that the same are often "slippery". (Claim Ex. A). Less than a week later, on April 2, 1997, Claimant was being escorted to the exercise yard under normal facility procedure with his hands cuffed behind his back. Claimant testified he saw the water on the floor and walked through the same. After his exercise period had been completed, Claimant was returning from the yard and again saw and walked through the water on the way back to his cell. Claimant was then taken from his cell to the shower area, again with his hands cuffed behind him, only on this trip as he walked on the wet flooring he slipped and fell resulting in alleged injury to his back.

In order to succeed at trial on a slip and fall case, Claimant must prove the State, as landowner, had either created a dangerous condition or, had actual or constructive notice of said dangerous condition yet failed to correct it. In addition, Claimant must also demonstrate that the alleged dangerous condition proximately caused the injuries sustained. (
Dapp v Larson, 240 AD2d 918). However, the State is not an insurer of the safety of the inmates of its correctional facilities and negligence is not presumed from the mere happening of this event. (Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874; Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719).

The Court has no hesitation in finding that the recurrent tendency of water to accumulate on the frequently used gallery walkway was a dangerous condition. Furthermore, all the evidence presented at trial points unmistakably to the conclusion the State had actual notice of this recurrent problem from various sources including the testimony of Shawangunk personnel (both maintenance and correction officers), as well as Facility inspection reports and work orders. (Cl. Ex 1 & 2). Additionally, when, as here, "[a] landowner has actual knowledge of the tendency of a particular dangerous condition to reoccur, he is charged with constructive notice of each specific reoccurrence of that condition [citations omitted]". (
Weisenthal v Pickman, 153 AD2d 849, 851). Moreover, Claimant's description of the cause of his accident went uncontested by the State. In sum, the Court finds the State's negligence was a proximate factor in causing Claimant's fall.

However, it is a well-settled principle that a person is bound to see that which by the proper use of their senses should have been seen. (
Tarricone v State of New York, 175 AD2d 308, lv denied 78 NY2d 862). Here, Claimant too had actual notice of this dangerous condition as established by, among other things, his own testimony; the grievance he coincidentally filed less than a week before the fall; and his personal observations of this very puddle on at least two prior trips to and from the recreation yard the same day as his accident. Consequently, under these circumstances, Claimant bears the lion's share of responsibility for his own injuries, if any.

Based upon the foregoing, and in light of Claimant's testimony at trial, the Court is satisfied that Claimant bears substantial responsibility for contributing to his own injuries as well as the State who allowed this dangerous and defective condition to exist for more than a decade. Consequently, the Court finds that liability for this accident should be apportioned 25% to the State and 75% to Claimant for any injuries suffered by Claimant as a result of this accident.

The Court will set this matter down for a trial on the issue of damages as soon as practicable.


August 18, 2000
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims