New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PELLECHIA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-012, Claim No. 94286


Prisoner - injury to finger; alleged medical malpractice. No expert proof, no liability. 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:
Arthur Pellechia, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 23, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


pro se 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 injured.

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, 78 AD2d 125; Hale v State of New York, supra lv den 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 23, 2000
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims