New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WARREN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-022, Claim No. 95307


Prisoner - alleged negligent use of PA System. Failure of proof, 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:
Vince Warren, 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:
September 27, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This claim, by a
pro se prisoner, alleges that the State was negligent in the use of the public address system at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing). The trial of this claim was held on September 21, 2000 at Sing Sing.
Claimant testified as follows: (1) on August 11, 1996, he was housed at Sing Sing in A Block; (2) a public address (hereinafter PA) system speaker was located above his cell; (3) on August 11, 1996 at about 7:40 a.m. a correction officer screamed so loudly into the PA that claimant suffered a punctured eardrum.

Claimant asserts that the officer was negligent for screaming into the PA. Claimant further testified that he complained to the Superintendent at Sing Sing about the PA and that officers were yelling into it. Claimant also stated that he filed an inmate grievance, that a grievance hearing was held on August 29, 1996 and that a response was rendered by the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (hereinafter IGRC) (see Exh. 3). The IGRC accepted claimant's grievance and recommended that the volume of the PA be lowered (Exh. 3). Claimant also submitted into evidence a copy of a prescription for Amoxicillin dated August 30, 1996 (Exh. 2) which he testified he received for his ear problem. He also introduced into evidence a copy of his Department of Correctional Services Ambulatory Health Record from Otisville Correctional Facility dated December 28, 1999 (Exh. 4) establishing that claimant had a wax build-up in his ear on that date.

To establish a cause of action for negligence, claimant must establish that (1) the State owed him a duty of care, (2) the State breached its duty to him, and (3) the breach of the duty was the proximate cause of an injury to claimant (4) resulting in damages. Here, even assuming without deciding that the State owed claimant a duty of care and the duty was breached, claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that his ruptured eardrum was caused by the loud volume of the PA system. Claimant offered only his unsubstantiated opinion that his eardrum was ruptured by the loud PA system. He offered no testimony from a medical expert linking the alleged negligence to his injury. The issue of whether and to what extent the loud PA system contributed to the claimant's ruptured eardrum is not a matter of common knowledge which a fact finder could decide in the absence of expert testimony (
see, Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653, lv denied 91 NY2d 810).
Accordingly, the State's motion to dismiss on the basis that claimant failed to prove a
prima facie claim upon which decision was reserved is now granted and the claim is hereby dismissed. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

September 27, 2000
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims