New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WOODS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-019-525, Claim No. 94304, Motion No. M-61805


Synopsis


Claimant's discovery motion for the production of log book entries granted.

Case Information

UID:
2000-019-525
Claimant(s):
JOSEPH WOODS
Claimant short name:
WOODS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
94304
Motion number(s):
M-61805
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
JOSEPH WOODS, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Glenn C. King, Staff Attorney, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 14, 2000
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, moved to compel the production of certain documents by the State of New York (hereinafter "State") prior to the continuation of trial held on June 14, 2000 at the Sullivan Correctional Facility. The Court heard oral argument on this motion prior to trial.


The Court considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
1. Claim, filed July 2, 1996.
  1. Notice of Motion No. M-61805, dated May 29, 2000 and filed June 2, 2000.
  2. Affidavit of Joseph Woods, in support of motion, sworn to May 31, 2000, with attached exhibits.
  3. Copy of letter from Glenn C. King, Staff Attorney to Joseph Woods, dated June 1, 2000.
  4. Copy of letter from the Deputy Superintendent of Security at Shawangunk Correctional Facility to Glenn C. King, Staff Attorney, dated June 5, 2000.
  5. Copy of letter from Glenn C. King, Staff Attorney to Joseph Woods, dated June 9, 2000.
  6. Defendant's Response to Request for Production of Documents, dated June 9, 2000.

Log Books

Claimant seeks access to the State Department of Correctional Services (hereinafter "DOCS") log books for the A1-A2 and D1-D2 housing units at Shawangunk Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility") for the time period covering January 1, 1995 through June 1, 1996.[1] Just prior to trial, the State produced various log book entries and three Fire and Safety Reports (hereinafter "Reports"). The only log book entry that relates to an incident other than Claimant's own is an August 14, 1995 entry stating that one "Inmate Matos said he slipped and fell when he went to sit on the chair." (Defendant's Response to Request for Production of Documents dated June 9, 2000). In addition, two Reports relating to other accidents state as follows:
Date
DIN# Last Name Injury description Type O/S Hosp
06/09/95 (name withheld) While sitting in chiar [sic], Acc No

slipped & hit head

08/14/95 (name withheld) Claims to have fell out of Acc No

chair, injuring buttocks.


(Defendant's Response to Request for Production of Documents dated June 9, 2000.)



It appears to the Court that the results of the log book entry search and the Reports are inconsistent with one another. The parties agreed at trial that there should be a log book entry for each and every prior chair accident, but that a Report is only generated when an inmate is injured as a result of an accident. Here, there were two Reports citing chair accidents occurring June 9, 1995 and August 14, 1995. It seems the August 14, 1995 Report matches the log book entry of the same date for Inmate Matos, but there is no corresponding log book entry for the June 9, 1995 Report. Thus, it appears the State's log book search missed the June 9, 1995 incident. As such, the Court now questions the reliability of the State's search of the log books in the first instance.[2] In short, the Court cannot now discount the possibility that there might be more undiscovered log book entries. The Court will direct the State to conduct a second search of the log books as set forth below.


Moreover, the purpose of the log book search was to determine the presence of any prior similar incidents from which Claimant might establish notice, actual or constructive, on behalf of the State regarding the tendency of these chairs to collapse. However, without more from the State regarding these prior incidents, it is difficult to determine whether any of these incidents are similar in nature and thus relevant on the issue of notice. (Bostic v State of New York, 232 AD2d 837, lv denied 89 NY2d 807). As such, the State is directed to produce Inmate Grievance Complaints, Reports of Inmate Injury, Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee Reports and Responses, Appeals, and Case Histories & Records in relation to the June 9, 1995 and August 14, 1995 incidents, as well as any other chair incidents uncovered in the second search of the Facility log books.[3]


Ricky Knapp

The Court previously denied Claimant's informal letter request for the production of inmate Ricky Knapp (#78-C-0337) on the grounds his relevance on the limited issue of notice was not demonstrated by Claimant's prior letter submission. By way of this motion, Claimant has submitted an affidavit from Mr. Knapp stating he was incarcerated at the Facility between 1994 and 1998. Inmate Knapp avers he personally witnessed three similar chair incidents between July 29, 1994 and May 9, 1995. However, until the additional information provided above is forthcoming, it would be premature for the Court to determine the relevance of Mr. Knapp's testimony regarding these other incidents. Accordingly, the Court will revisit the issue of whether Inmate Knapp should be produced at the continuation of this trial upon completion of further discovery.


In view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED that


1. The State shall conduct an additional review of and produce the log book entries of the Facility's A1-A2 and D1-D2 housing units from July 29, 1994 (the date referenced by Inmate Knapp) to June 1, 1996 for any reference relating to incidents involving these plastic chairs.


2. The State shall produce the Inmate Grievance Complaint, Report of Inmate Injury, Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee Reports and Responses, Appeals, and Case History & Record, and/or Log Book entries relating to the June 9, 1995 and August 14, 1995 incidents as well as any further incidents the State may discover upon review of the log books between July 29, 1994 and June 1, 1996. The State should produce and exchange this additional discovery, if any, on or before August 14, 2000. In the event the State objects to the production of any of these documents and/or the inmate's name and location on the basis of security, then the State should produce these documents to the Court for an in camera inspection, together with a letter outlining its concerns.


3. Upon completion of this additional discovery, the Court will schedule this matter, if necessary, for yet another trial date for a continuation on the limited issue of notice.


Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, it is ordered that Motion No. M-61805, is GRANTED in accordance with the terms set forth herein.


July 14, 2000
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]
Claimant first requested this information by letter to the State dated March 27, 2000. (Claimant's Affidavit, Exhibits 1 & 4). The State objected to Claimant's request on the grounds it was vague, overbroad and burdensome, but stated "[n]onetheless, an attempt is underway to retrieve log books concerning the B-1 unit and copies will be provided notwithstanding any other objection to providing such records. Furthermore, a copy of the block log relating to your incident has previously been provided." (Claimant's Affidavit, Exhibit 6). In response, Claimant sent another letter to the State attempting to justify his request and resolve the issue without court intervention. (Claimant's Affidavit, Exhibit 7). The State's next letter advised the Claimant that security concerns prohibited an "unfettered perusal" of the log books, but that "Facility personnel are examining the entire log book entries that you are requesting and are either tabbing or highlighting those entries that indicate the collapse and/or breakage of the type of chairs that are the subject of this claim." (State's letter dated June 1, 2000).
[2]
The State performed the search rather than Claimant, since the State objected to Claimant's unfettered review of these log books on the basis of security concerns. While this Court will not second-guess such security concerns, there are some notable inconsistencies in the State's responses. For example, names were withheld from the Reports, but Inmate Matos' name is not redacted in the corresponding log book entry. In addition, in the State's response dated June 9, 2000 there are two entire pages from the log book blacked or blocked out except for the entries relating to Claimant. However, these very same pages were attached to the State's earlier discovery responses without any of this same information redacted. (State's Response to Claimant's Demand for Bill of Particulars, Exhibit A).
[3]
Claimant previously demanded "[c]opies of any and all injury reports from the subject, stack chairs at Shawangunk Correctional Facility, including the Visiting Room Area from January 1, 1994 - January 31, 1996." (Claimant's Demand for Bill of Particulars and Request for Production of Documents, dated January 2000).