Claimant alleges that the defendant State of New York failed to provide timely
and adequate medical care to him while he was incarcerated at Auburn
Correctional Facility, where he sustained an injury to his right middle finger
on February 11, 1997.
The trial of this claim was ordered bifurcated. This decision deals solely
with the issue of liability.
In connection with a prior motion
relating to this claim, claimant advised the Court that he did not intend to
present any expert medical testimony, and that he would rely on medical records
and lay witness testimony to establish his claim that the facility failed to
provide him with timely medical treatment.
Uncontroverted testimony established that on February 11, 1997, claimant was
participating in a vocational class at Auburn Correctional Facility. While he
was drilling wood, he sustained an injury to his right hand, and in particular
his right middle finger, when it was jammed into the wood. He was examined on
the day of the injury by an infirmary nurse at the facility, who found that the
finger had swelled and prescribed Tylenol for the discomfort. At the time of
this examination, claimant made a statement in a "Report of Inmate Injury" that
"I am alright (sic) hand just a little bit soar (sic)" (see, Defendant's Exhibit
A). The nurse advised claimant to seek follow-up treatment if the pain and/or
Claimant testified that over the next several days, he continued to experience
substantial pain, and that the swelling persisted. Claimant contends that due
to the condition of his hand, he requested further medical attention after the
date of the accident. Claimant stated that he requested medical attention on
February 14, 1997 and February 18, 1997, but these requests were ignored.
Because of the continued pain, claimant again made a request for a sick call
visit on February 19, 1997. Correction Officer Hutchings, who was on duty in
claimant's cell block at the time, observed that claimant's hand was severely
swollen, advised the nursing department of claimant's condition, and was
instructed to put claimant on the sick call list for the following day.
The next day, February 20, 1997, claimant was examined, x-rays were taken, and
he was diagnosed with a broken finger. Upon making this diagnosis, claimant was
then immediately transported to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, where he was
treated and his hand was placed in a cast.
Claimant contends that the nine day delay in treating his injury, and the
failure to properly diagnose his injury, are attributable to negligence on the
part of the State.
It is well-settled that 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;
Rivers v State of New York
, 159 AD2d 788; lv denied
76 NY2d 701).
A claim may be premised either as one sounding in negligence or one for medical
It is claimant's position, however, that this is not a claim based upon medical
malpractice, but rather is one based on the alleged negligence attributable to
the staff at Auburn Correctional Facility in failing to provide timely and
adequate care. If a claim alleges negligence, or medical negligence, then the
alleged negligent omissions or acts by the State's employees must be able to be
readily determined by a fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity
of expert testimony (
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center
, 114 AD2d 254).
Similarly, the State may be found liable for ministerial neglect if its
employees fail to comply with an institution's own administrative procedures and
protocols for dispensing medical care to inmates (Kagan v State of New
, 221 AD2d 7).
Testimony at trial established that immediately after the claimant was injured,
he was in fact seen by medical personnel at the facility. Based upon the
initial examination and claimant's statement that his hand was just a bit sore,
the examining nurse prescribed medication.
The Court finds that claimant received medical treatment on a timely basis
immediately following his accident. Although claimant was not diagnosed with a
fracture until nine days after the accident, he did receive timely treatment.
This Court cannot make a determination whether such treatment was inadequate, or
deviated from good and accepted standards of medical care, without expert
Claimant testified that he then made requests for further medical attention on
February 14, 1997 and again on February 18, 1997. However, there is no record
that claimant made a request for medical attention on February 14
th, nor was there any corroboration, testimonial or otherwise, that this request
had been made.
Regarding claimant's request for medical attention on February 18, 1997, health
records indicate that claimant failed to appear at the sick call that day. At
trial, claimant testified that he elected not to appear for this medical
appointment so that he could instead attend a family visit.
Claimant's next request for a sick call appointment, made on February 19, 1997,
was accommodated by an appointment held the next day at which time the diagnosis
was made and treatment was provided.
It is reasonable to conclude that since claimant chose not to appear for his
scheduled appointment on February 18, 1997, he was not in a great deal of pain
at the time, nor was the swelling so severe to give claimant, or any facility
personnel, cause for concern.
The Court must therefore consider whether the one day delay (from claimant's
request for medical attention made to Correction Officer Hutchings on February
th to his treatment on February 20th) was unreasonable.
From the record, there is no indication that the actions of medical care givers
amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect. Under these
circumstances, the Court finds that there was no unreasonable delay in
responding to claimant's requests for additional medical attention, or any
failure to comply with facility procedures and protocols. The Court does not
accept claimant's uncorroborated testimony that he requested medical attention
on February 14
th, and claimant did not appear for his requested sick call on February 18th.
The Court finds that an adequate and timely response was made to his request for
attention on February 19th, which resulted in his diagnosis and treatment on
After considering all of the testimony and evidence, and after due
deliberation, the Court finds that claimant has failed to establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the State was negligent in providing adequate
and timely medical attention to his needs.
Accordingly, Claim No. 95794 is hereby DISMISSED.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.