prisoner claim alleges that the defendant's employees at Sing Sing
Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing) failed to properly diagnose and
treat claimant's injured finger. The trial of this claim was held at Sing Sing
on August 10, 2000.
Claimant testified that he was in the Special Housing Unit (hereinafter SHU)
Recreation Yard at Sing Sing on May 20, 1996. At approximately 10:30 a.m.,
while playing basketball, claimant injured his right pinky finger when he jammed
his finger on the ball. Claimant reported the injury to a correction officer
and requested medical assistance. He states the C.O. locked him in his cell and
told him to put in a request for sick call. Claimant further testified that he
did not go to the infirmary until the next day, May 21, 1996. At that time, he
was examined by a physician's assistant who ordered x-rays of his right pinky.
The x-rays were taken and he stated he was informed the pinky was broken. A
metal splint was placed on his finger, but when he returned to SHU the splint
was confiscated for security reasons.
It was claimant's opinion that normal policy and procedure at Sing Sing
requiring that he be seen by a doctor was violated, as he was not allowed to go
to the infirmary until more than 24 hours after he was injured. In response to
a query by the Court, claimant was unable to identify the facility directive
that he alleges was violated. On cross-examination, five pages of claimant's
medical records were admitted into evidence as Exhibit A.
The first page of the exhibit is a copy of claimant's Ambulatory Health Record
which contains an entry for May 21, 1996. The entry indicates that (1) claimant
injured his left pinky finger the previous day in the yard; (2) x-rays were
taken; (3) a splint was applied to his left pinky finger, and (4) claimant was
to be reevaluated in three weeks. Claimant stated that it was his right pinky
finger that was injured, not his left and that the correct finger was x-rayed
and splinted. Thus, it appears that the person recording the information in
claimant's medical record made an incorrect entry regarding the finger that was
The second page of Exhibit A contains the Report of Inmate Injury and Medical
Report. The Medical Report, dated May 21, 1996, indicates that claimant's right
pinky finger was bruised and claimant was advised to soak it in warm water and
that Physician's Assistant Williams notified x-ray.
The third page of Exhibit A is a copy of an X-Ray Requisition and Report, also
dated May 21, 1996. The report indicates that x-rays of claimant's right pinky
were taken as requested by P.A. Williams. The report states, "[t]here is no
evidence of a fracture or dislocation" and is signed by Donna A. Brown, M.D., a
radiologist with Phelps Radiology Asso.
The fourth page of Exhibit A refers to an unrelated possible smoke inhalation
injury to claimant also on May 20, 1996.
The fifth page of Exhibit A is another X-Ray Requisition and Report, dated as
"done" on June 21, 1996. The report recites that x-rays were taken of the pinky
finger on both of claimant's hands. The report states, "[n]ormal alignment,
without evidence of a fracture. No evidence of dislocation or adverse bony
changes". Claimant stated that only one set of x-rays of his finger was taken;
that the x-rays were taken on May 21, 1996 and he had no knowledge of Dr.
Brown's report dated June 21, 1996.
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
AD2d 125; Hale v State of New York
, supra lv den
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
, lv den
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
, 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
, Macey v Hassam
, 97 AD2d 919). The Court finds that no material
delay in treatment occurred. Claimant did not present any expert testimony, nor
did he provide any credible evidence that the 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
case for medical malpractice has been established by
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.
, that the delay in examining his finger 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, nor that treatment
would have been different, had the injured finger been examined
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.