New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BUNN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-028-0009, Claim No. 95043


Prison – inmate assault – no proof that assault was related to allegations made at a housing unit meeting or that such allegations required heightened security – claim 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: Glenn King, Esq. Staff Attorney
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 29, 2000

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This claim arose on December 9, 1995 at Greene Correctional Facility when claimant was assaulted by another inmate as he traveled from the dining hall to his housing area. Claimant testified that he had just finished breakfast and passed through the basketball court on his way back to his cell when he was grabbed from behind and cut across the left side of his face. After the attack, claimant turned and saw a Hispanic male, shorter than he, who was wearing a green hooded sweatshirt. The assailant ran away and claimant chased for a short distance until he realized that he was bleeding. Claimant was taken by correction officials to Albany Medical Center, where he received approximately 30 stitches. The Court observed that, even five years after the injury, the scar was readily visible and, further, credited claimant's testimony regarding the pain and discomfort he suffered as a result of the attack.
Claimant did not know his assailant. He believes, however, that the attack was related to a "house meeting" that had taken place a day earlier, on December 8
th. At that meeting, various inmates aired concerns, and one of them said that he thought the reason the house had been "tossed" (searched) so frequently was that there was a "snitch" within the group. Another inmate stated that he thought he knew who it was and mentioned claimant's name. Claimant testified that a correction officer who was present at the meeting made a notation in the log shortly after these statements were made, but a review of the relevant log (Exh. 1) reveals no mention of the accusation. The Court will accept as true, however, claimant's account of the meeting.
It is possible that there was some connection between the comments at the house meeting and the subsequent attack on claimant, but the connection cannot have been an obvious one because the assailant was unknown to claimant. In the absence of any other proof, the asserted connection is mere speculation. Nor was there evidence to suggest that correction officials would in the normal course of events have an affirmative duty to provide greater protection to claimant if they were aware he had been accused of being a "snitch." Whether such a comment was sufficiently unusual to warrant extra measures is a determination that would rest within the discretion of prison officials who are charged with the formidable task of managing the "daily activities of a large number of inmates who have been confined due to their criminal, and often violent conduct" (
Matter of Rivera v Smith, 63 NY2d 501, 512).
The State is required to use reasonable care to protect the inmates of its correctional facilities from foreseeable risk of harm (Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342), including the foreseeable risk of attack by other inmates (Dizak v State of New York, 124 AD2d 329; Sebastiano v State of New York, 112 AD2d 562). The State is not, however, an insurer of the safety of its inmates (Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914, lv denied 76 NY2d 711; Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495), and negligence will not be inferred from the mere happening of an incident (Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719; Van Barneveld v State of New York, 35 AD2d 900). The standard of care is that of reasonable supervision (see, Castiglione v State of New York, 25 AD2d 895), and factors to be considered include whether there was a history of animosity between a claimant and his attackers, of which the State was or should have been aware (see, Hull v State of New York, 105 AD2d 961; Wilson v State of New York, 36 AD2d 559; Hann v State of New York, 137 Misc 2d 605, 608-609) and whether correction officials had notice of the risk of harm and an opportunity to intervene in a way that would have prevented assault but failed to do so (Huertas v State of New York, 84 AD2d 650).
The record in this claim is devoid of evidence from which the Court could conclude that the State had knowledge either of any animosity between claimant and his attacker or of any heightened, general need to protect claimant from harm. Consequently, the claim must be dismissed.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.

November 29, 2000
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims