In this claim, claimant seeks damages for injuries sustained by him when he
fell from an upper bunk while incarcerated at Cape Vincent Correctional
Facility. Claimant also alleges that the State failed to provide him with
proper and timely medical attention in the treatment of the injuries he suffered
in this fall.
The trial of this claim was held on October 22, 2001, at Watertown Correctional
Claimant testified that while incarcerated at Cape Vincent Correctional
Facility, he slipped and fell at the gymnasium, and as a result of this fall, he
requested a back board to support him while he was in bed. Claimant testified
that he was issued a back board, but was assigned an upper bunk in his housing
unit, and that on April 20, 1997, while attempting to get down from his bed, he
fell and injured his back. Claimant contends that due to his documented history
of back problems, the State should not have assigned him to an upper bunk.
The procedures for the selection of inmates for double-cell housing are set
forth in Title 7 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, § 1701.5.
Specifically, the facility health staff are required to conduct a medical
records review of inmates under consideration for double-cell housing to
determine whether any of those inmates require placement in a bottom bunk bed
(7 NYCRR 1701.5[c][i]), and a physical assessment of the inmate must
also be conducted (7 NYCRR 1701.5[c][ii]).
At trial, claimant did not offer any testimony that the State failed to comply
with these regulations when it determined that claimant should be assigned to an
upper bunk. Furthermore, upon cross examination, claimant testified that he did
not contest his assignment to an upper bunk.
The State is required to use reasonable care to protect the inmates of its
correctional facilities from foreseeable risk of harm (Flaherty v State of
, 296 NY 342; Sebastiano v State of New York
, 112 AD2d 562).
The State is not, however, an insurer of the safety of its inmates and
negligence cannot be presumed from the happening of an accident (Colon v
State of New York
, 209 AD2d 842; Padgett v State of New York
AD2d 914, lv denied
76 NY2d 711; Casella v State of New York
In this case, claimant failed to establish that his medical condition entitled
him to the assignment of a lower bunk. Furthermore, his testimony established
that he did not contest his assignment to an upper bunk, and that he took no
action whatsoever to provide any notice to facility staff that he considered
himself to be at risk with his assignment to an upper bunk.
Claimant has therefore failed to satisfy his burden of establishing that the
State was negligent in placing him in an upper bunk, or that it failed to follow
proper procedures in making such an assignment.
Additionally, claimant did not offer any documentary evidence or expert medical
testimony at trial in support of this claim alleging improper and untimely
medical treatment for the injuries suffered in the fall from his bunk. In fact,
claimant rested without offering any testimony or evidence whatsoever regarding
improper or untimely medical treatment. Based on the complete lack of any such
evidence or testimony, therefore, this aspect of his claim must also be
Accordingly, the State's motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved at
trial, is now granted and this claim is dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.