New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SANCHEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-009-107, Claim No. 97626


Synopsis


This claim sought damages for injuries suffered by claimant, an inmate, who fell from an upper bunk while incarcerated at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. Claimant also sought damages for improper and untimely medical attention. The Court found that the State had not violated any rules or regulations governing double-cell housing and that the State was not negligent in assigning claimant to an upper bunk. Claimant did not offer any testimony or evidence at trial regarding his claim for untimely and improper medical treatment. The claim was therefore dismissed.

Case Information

UID:
2001-009-107
Claimant(s):
ANTHONY SANCHEZ
Claimant short name:
SANCHEZ
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
97626
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY, JR.
Claimant's attorney:
ANTHONY SANCHEZ, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General
BY: Heather R. Rubinstein, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 29, 2001
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
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 Facility.

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][6][i]), and a physical assessment of the inmate must also be conducted (7 NYCRR 1701.5[c][6][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 New York, 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, 163 AD2d 914, lv denied 76 NY2d 711; Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495).
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 dismissed.

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.


October 29, 2001
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY, JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims