New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

McKINLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-019-022, Claim Nos. 97500,97648


Claimant failed to establish a prima facie case of either assault by correction officers or delay of medical treatment; Claims dismissed.

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: Michael C. Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 22, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, a
pro se inmate, alleges he was assaulted by Correction Officers at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility on or about July 3, 1997 and subsequently denied medical treatment for the injuries suffered as a result of that assault.[1] This matter was tried on August 15, 2000, at the Sullivan Correctional Facility.

The facts as found by the Court after trial indicate that on July 3, 1997, Claimant was housed in a double cell in D-Block at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility. On that date, the Claimant left his D-Block double cell for a hospital call out or "sick call".[2]
While the Claimant was at sick call Correction Officers received word that the Claimant was to be placed in keeplock for 30 days based upon a disciplinary ticket which had been issued. Sergeant Kunze then packed Claimant's cell in D-Block and he and several other Correction Officers went to meet the Claimant at the hospital in order to transfer Claimant directly from the hospital to keeplock.

Claimant acknowledges that he was met at the hospital and taken to keeplock but claims he was not told why. The Claimant resisted going directly to his keeplock cell, insisting instead on returning to D-Block to pack his former cell. When the Claimant was advised that his cell had already been packed, the Claimant objected and alleged that the property packed by the Correction Officers was incomplete. Upon arrival at keeplock, Claimant was told to enter the cell but Claimant refused unless he got an opportunity to inventory and re-pack his property. The Claimant candidly acknowledged that he would not lock down and that in his opinion this was "just a game" between he and the Correction Officers. The Claimant further admitted candidly that he stood there and ignored the Correction Officers and was going to hold his ground until he got his property. Claimant testified he told the Correction Officers "kill me if you have to, but I'm not moving". The testimony of Sergeant Kunze and others at trial indicate that the Claimant was told at least eight to ten times over a fifteen minute period to enter the cell. The Claimant steadfastly refused. Finally, Sergeant Kunze along with four other Correction Officers had to forcibly take the Claimant, place him on the floor and restrain him in order to get him to enter keeplock.

It is well-settled that correction officers are entitled to use physical force, but "[o]nly such degree of force as is reasonably required shall be used". (7 NYCRR 251-1.2 [b]). More specifically:
[a]n employee shall not lay hands on or strike an inmate unless the employee reasonably believes that the physical force to be used is reasonably necessary: for self-defense; to prevent injury to person or property; to enforce compliance with a lawful direction; to quell a disturbance; or to prevent an escape.

(7 NYCRR 251-1.2 [d]; emphasis added). Additionally, claims of excessive force often turn on the credibility of the witnesses. (Davis v State of New York, 203 AD2d 234). As the trier of fact, the Court in this instance credits the testimony of Sergeant Kunze.

Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that Claimant disobeyed a direct order of the Correction Officers and in so doing acted in a direct and threatening manner. Claimant's indignant and combative attitude only aggravated the situation. The Court finds that the use of force in this case by the Correction Officers involved was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances with which they were confronted. (
Jones v State of New York, 33 NY2d 275; Brown v State of New York, 24 Misc 2d 358). Moreover, the Court has no hesitation in concluding that Claimant here bears the sole responsibility for his own injuries, if any, as a result of his indignant and threatening refusal to obey a valid and direct order.

Delay of Medical Treatment
As a result of this confrontation, Claimant alleges that he injured his right knee, his right foot, and his left wrist and was denied medical treatment for these injuries. However, the facts as established at trial show otherwise. In fact, the medical records submitted by the State (Exhibit A), show that Claimant received continuous treatment as a result of this incident on July 3, July 11, July 17, July 21, and July 31, 1997 at the facility infirmary. Furthermore x-rays of his left wrist and knees were ordered on August 5 and taken on August 26. Those x-rays revealed that his left wrist was normal, and that his right knee was normal, but with a pre-existing osteoarthritis inflamation of some sort. In short, the Court finds that Claimant received immediate and continuous medical attention for any complaints of injuries as a result of the July 3, 1997 incident. Moreover, the medical records and x-rays support the Court's finding that no permanent injury was sustained by Claimant as a result of the same.

The principle that the State is obliged to provide inmates with reasonable and adequate medical treatment is well-accepted. (
Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789, lv denied 76 NY2d 701). Since Claimant has placed in issue the treatment received by him, it is premised upon medical malpractice. As such, the Claimant has the burden to establish, through the testimony of a medical expert, that the care and treatment provided was a deviation from the applicable standard of care; that medical personnel did not possess or had not used reasonable care in the application of the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed; and that the alleged delay was a proximate cause of his injuries or a substantial factor in exacerbating pre-existing injuries. (Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025, lv denied 40 NY2d 804; Macey v Hasam, 97 AD2d 919). Here, Claimant did not submit the testimony of any medical expert.

Thus, Claimant has failed to meet his burden to establish a prima facie case on either cause of action and for the foregoing reasons, Claim Nos. 97500 and 97648 are hereby DISMISSED.


September 22, 2000
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Both claims (97500 & 97648) allege identical causes of action arising from the same facts.
Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the Court's trial notes.