New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v.THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-006, Claim No. 95403


Prisoner - alleged medical malpractice. No proof of delay in treatment or that treatment was improper. No liability - 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:
Andrew WilliamsPro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 11, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This claim, by a
pro se prisoner, alleges that the defendant's employees at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing) failed to properly diagnose and treat claimant's injured right knee in a timely manner.
At the commencement of the trial of this claim at Sing Sing on August 3, 2000, the State moved to dismiss the claim based upon the sixth affirmative defense, raised in the State's Verified Answer to the claim, asserting that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction due to claimant's failure to timely file the claim or notice of intention in accordance with Court of Claims Act § 10 and § 11. In opposition to the State's motion, claimant asserted that the continuous course of treatment doctrine, as set forth in CPLR § 214-a, is applicable to this claim. The Court advised the parties that it would reserve decision on the State's motion and requested post-trial memoranda on this issue within 45 days from the date of trial.

Following the trial, the Court received correspondence from the Assistant Attorney General representing the State in this matter withdrawing the State's sixth affirmative defense. Such withdrawal is accepted by the Court.

Claimant testified that he injured his right knee when he slipped and fell in the tunnel between the housing block and the school building. Claimant stated that he was given ice for his knee; that x-rays were taken and that no abnormalities were found. He further testified that he continued to have knee pain and went to sick call about 15 times complaining about his knee and that surgery was performed on his right knee in April, 1996. He further asserted that his knee still bothers him because he received improper medical care.

To maintain an action for injuries sustained while under the care and control of a medical practitioner, a party may proceed upon a theory of simple negligence or upon the more particularized theory of medical malpractice (
Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025). The theory of simple negligence is restricted to those cases where the alleged negligent act is readily determinable by the trier of the facts on common knowledge. However, where the treatment received by the patient is an issue, the more specialized theory of medical malpractice must be followed (see, Twitchell v MacKay, 78 AD2d 125; Hale v State of New York, supra mot for lv denied 40 NY2d 804). Here, claimant is not asserting a cause of action upon a theory of ordinary negligence, but one upon a theory of medical malpractice as he is complaining about the medical treatment he received.
The burden was on claimant to establish that the care and treatment afforded him by the State at the correctional facility constituted a deviation from the applicable standard of care in that the medical personnel at Sing Sing either did not possess or had not used reasonable care in the application of the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners in the field (
Hale v State of New York, supra, mot for lv denied 40 NY2d 804; Pike v Honsinger, 155 NY 201; Riley v Wieman, 137 AD2d 309). The burden was also on claimant to establish that the alleged negligence (the failure or delay in treating his injury) was a proximate cause of his damages, i.e., that it was a substantial factor in causing or exacerbating his injuries (Kennedy v Peninsula Hosp. Center, 135 AD2d 788; Koster v Greenberg, 120 AD2d 644).
The State has an obligation to provide ordinary and appropriate medical treatment to those inmates in its institutions (
Gordon v City of New York, 120 AD2d 562, affd 70 NY2d 839). As this is a medical malpractice action alleging improper treatment, expert medical testimony is required (Morgan v State of New York, 40 AD2d 891; see also, Macey v Hassam, 97 AD2d 919). The Court finds that no unreasonable delay in treatment occurred. Claimant did not present any expert testimony, nor did he provide any credible evidence that the extensive medical treatment he received: (a) was not proper, (b) was unreasonably delayed, or (c) that any perceived delay that may have occurred exacerbated his condition. Thus, the Court finds that no prima facie case for medical malpractice has been established by claimant.
In the absence of any testimony from a medical expert that the medical treatment claimant received was improper, we find and conclude that claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the medical care provided to claimant was not appropriate or adequate.

arguendo, that the delay in performing surgery was based upon a theory of simple negligence, we would find that claimant has failed to meet his burden of proof as to a breach of a duty of care or resultant damages. There was no testimony that the pain he experienced would have been less had the injury been discovered and the knee been surgically repaired sooner.
Accordingly, the State's motion to dismiss made at the conclusion of the trial, upon which decision was reserved, is now granted and the claim is hereby dismissed. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

August 11, 2000
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims