On December 6, 1991, claimant, an inmate, was attacked by another inmate at the
Mohawk Correctional Facility. It is claimant's contention that the assault and
his resulting injuries were caused by the State's negligence in failing to
reasonably protect him from the attack and failing to provide adequate
This claim was ordered bifurcated at the beginning of the trial. This decision
therefore deals solely with the issue of liability.
Claimant testified that while incarcerated at Mohawk Correctional Facility, and
prior to the assault against him, he was a member and Vice President of the
Inmate Liaison Committee (ILC). This committee is comprised of inmates who
interact through a correctional facility sergeant with the administration of the
facility on various issues that affect the inmates and their living conditions.
According to claimant, allegations had surfaced that inmate funds had been
misappropriated, and this generated internal conflict between members as to what
action should be taken by the committee. The committee decided to send a letter
to the Department of Correctional Services in Albany regarding this situation,
and claimant disagreed with this approach. Eventually, during a meeting of the
ILC on January 5, 1991, the President of the ILC was suddenly removed due to a
and claimant, as Vice President, assumed leadership of the committee. Claimant
testified that since he was a "dissenting voice" and had been appointed
President of the committee, these changes placed him in "danger". Claimant
testified that he wrote Deputy Superintendent Kenneth Perlman, and spoke with
Sergeant John Croshier, expressing his concerns for his safety.
On the following day, December 6, 1991, while on a walkway which connects the
commissary building and the prison yard, claimant was attacked by an unknown
assailant. According to his testimony, claimant remembers hearing someone yell
"Hey, ILC" immediately prior to being attacked from behind. Claimant sustained
a severe beating and suffered serious head injuries from this assault.
Claimant testified that he did not see any guards monitoring the travel of
inmates along this walkway, but also admitted that he did not recall actually
looking for any such guards prior to the attack.
Immediately after the assault, claimant testified that he was assisted by other
inmates to the mess hall, since that was the closest building. He was then
taken to the infirmary and was ultimately transferred to Upstate Medical Center
In addition to Kenneth Perlman and Sergeant Croshier, Joseph E. McCoy, First
Deputy Superintendent of the facility at the time of the incident, and Ernest E.
Stevens, Jr., a correctional officer at the facility at the time, also
testified. Each of these witnesses testified that they had no recollection of
the claimant ever having presented to them any concerns which would have
warranted any action to provide him with protection against the assault which
occurred. They also testified that they had no recollection that the
involvement of claimant with the ILC played any role in the attack. Correction
Officer Stevens also testified that there are no mass movements of inmates on
walkways without guards in place.
It is well settled that the State must provide inmates with reasonable
protection against foreseeable risks of attack by other inmates (
Flaherty v State of New York
, 296 NY 342; Blake v State of New
, 259 AD2d 878; Sebastiano v State of New York
, 112 AD2d 562).
The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of inmates, and the fact
that an assault has occurred does not give rise to an inference of negligence
(Padgett v State of New York
, 163 AD2d 914, lv denied
76 NY2d 711;
Schittino v State of New York
, 262 AD2d 824, lv denied
Generally, in claims involving the assault against an inmate by another inmate,
liability in a claim asserting negligence on the part of the State must be
predicated upon one of the following grounds: (1) the victim was a known risk
and the State failed to provide reasonable protection (
Sebastiano v State of New York
); (2) the State had notice
that the assailant was particularly prone to perpetrating such an assault and
failed to take proper precautionary measures (Littlejohn v State of New
, 218 AD2d 833; Wilson v State of New York
, 36 AD2d 559); or (3)
the State had ample notice and an opportunity to intervene but failed to act
(Huertas v State of New York
, 84 AD2d 650). Additionally, the mere fact
that a guard may not have been present at a particular location is insufficient
to support a finding that the State failed to exercise reasonable care, absent a
showing that officials had notice of an especially dangerous situation at that
site (Padgett v State of New York
In this claim, although claimant had expressed his concerns to certain prison
officials that he was in danger due to his involvement with the ILC, claimant
had not been threatened by anyone, nor had claimant made any request for special
protection of any type, such as segregated housing, prior to the incident.
Based on the testimony, the Court does not find sufficient evidence that
claimant, through his position and involvement with the ILC, had become a known
risk of an assault, or that such activities provided the State with ample notice
and an opportunity to prevent the attack. The preponderance of the evidence
indicates that claimant did not know of any individual or individuals who were
threatening him, did not ask for any additional or different protection, did not
ask to be segregated from the general population, and in fact, according to his
testimony, did not know his assailant even after the assailant was identified to
him following the incident.
Simply put, claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence
that there was any culpable conduct or negligence on the part of the defendant
in connection with this unfortunate attack against him.
Accordingly, after considering all of the evidence presented herein, Claim No.
84780 is hereby DISMISSED.
All motions not heretofore ruled upon are denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.