Claimant seeks damages for injuries she sustained, while she was incarcerated
at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility ("Bedford") from June of 1996 until
February 10, 1997, during which time she was raped by Correction Officer Thomas
The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this Decision pertains solely to the
issue of liability.
On January 16, 1998, Correction Officer Thomas Haynes pled guilty to the crime
of Rape in the Third degree in acknowledgment that he had sexual intercourse
claimant on February 10, 1997 at Bedford. An inmate is deemed incapable of
consent to a sexual act with an employee of the State Department of Correctional
Services (Penal Law § 130.05[e]).
Claimant testified that in June 1996, while she was incarcerated at Bedford,
she was raped for the first time by Haynes. She further testified that one
month later, she was raped again by Haynes. After the second incident, she
advised Sergeant Cliff Richmond what had happened and, at his request, prepared
a written statement for him. She also confided in Sergeant Richard Budd,
Sergeant Steven Fredricks, and Correction Officer Bonnie Pawlak. Although
claimant received assurances that her concerns would be passed along, there was
no change in Haynes' presence around the facility.
Budd offered to place claimant in protective custody. Since this meant that
claimant would be confined to her cell for 23 hours a day, claimant viewed the
suggestion as a form of punishment and declined the offer. On February 10,
1997, claimant reiterated her fears of a future rape to Correction Officer
Bonnie Pawlak. According to claimant, Pawlak said she would talk to "somebody"
and took claimant to her work assignment.
Later that evening, Haynes raped claimant for the third time. Claimant secured
evidence of the crime and Haynes was arrested three days
The deposition testimonies of Budd, Richmond, Fredricks and Pawlak were
admitted into evidence. They corroborate claimant's testimony that she had
reported Haynes' behavior. Budd testified that
claimant had complained to him about Haynes a few days before the February 10,
1997 rape. While Budd was not sure that claimant was telling the truth, he
forwarded the information to Deputy Superintendent Fenton or Captain Livlen and
monitored Haynes whenever he worked in Budd's area (Ex. 9, pp. 19-20). Budd did
not receive any instructions that claimant should be distanced from Haynes (Ex.
9, pp. 6-7).
Prior to the February 10, 1997 rape, Budd had also received complaints from
two other inmates concerning sexual encounters with Haynes (Ex. 9, p. 8). Budd
had also heard correction officers refer to Haynes' sexual encounters with other
inmates (Ex. 9, p. 16). As far as Budd knew, Haynes had never been limited
officially in his contact with inmates (Ex. 9, pp. 17-18).
Richmond testified that on February 4, 1997, he had received complaints from
claimant regarding two prior incidents of improper sexual conduct with Haynes.
Claimant provided a written statement to Richmond memorializing her allegations
(Ex. 10, pp. 4-5). By memorandum dated February 4, 1997, Richmond forwarded
claimant's statement to Bedford Superintendent Elaine
Richmond noted that on various occasions,
claimant had provided information which had been reliable. He believed that
claimant had had sexual contact with Haynes prior to February 4th and offered
her the option of protective custody (Ex. 10, p. 8). Richmond was also aware
that there were rumors throughout Bedford that Haynes was sexually involved with
inmates. Although Richmond testified that, prior to February 10, 1997, there
was an investigation conducted by Lord concerning this matter, he provided no
details. Significantly, there was no additional evidence substantiating any
inquiry undertaken by correction officials.
Richmond also testified that he took no further action after forwarding the
memorandum to Lord. He explained that, if the regular procedures were followed,
the Inspector General's office would have been immediately notified by Lord. In
regard to claimant, Richmond was not contacted by the Inspector General's office
until February 15, 1997, nine days after this report and five days after the
Fredricks testified that in January 1997, he looked into complaints of sexual
misconduct by Haynes involving inmate Nicole Eaddy. After interviewing Eaddy,
Fredricks forwarded a memorandum setting forth her allegation to his supervisor,
Lieutenant Taylor. Fredricks took no further action. Prior to February 10,
1997, he also had interviews with two other inmates in reference to sexual
misconduct by Haynes (Ex. 1).
Pawlak testified that, in February 1997,
claimant expressed her concern that Haynes wanted to have sex and that she had
previously reported her fears to Richmond. Pawlak did not recall the exact
date, but knew she had spoken to claimant in the early evening in the tunnel
area when claimant was scheduled to go to her work assignment. Pawlak told
claimant to prepare a statement that would be picked up later. Pawlak never
retrieved the statement, nor did she report the allegation to
Defendant rested after claimant's case.
It is well established that "[t]he State just as any other party *** is
responsible, in the operation and management of its schools, hospitals and other
institutions, only for hazards reasonably to be foreseen, only for risks
reasonably to be perceived." (
Flaherty v State of New York
, 296 NY 342, 346) and with respect to the
safety of persons on its property, the duty of the State is one of reasonable
care under the circumstances (see
, Miller v State of New York
NY2d 506, 513; Basso v Miller
, 40 NY2d 233,241).
Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they
did so, the Court finds that the credible evidence established that, prior to
the February incident,
defendant had notice that Haynes posed a danger to claimant. Indeed, defendant
offered claimant protective custody in response to her allegations. Given
Haynes' position as a correction officer, protective custody can hardly be
viewed as an effective manner of assuring that claimant would not be accessible
to Haynes. Further, the Court rejects defendant's argument that, by refusing
protective custody, which would require claimant to be confined to her cell 23
hours a day, claimant assumed the risk of being raped by Haynes. It was not
claimant's movement within the facility that needed to be confined, it was
Haynes'. Defendant, however, failed to demonstrate to this Court that it took
any steps toward monitoring Haynes' movement and behavior in the facility.
Significantly, there was not even any testimony regarding the procedures of
conducting an investigation. While defendant maintains that an investigation
was undertaken, the absence of proof fails to convince this Court that anything
meaningful was ever done until five days after the February incident. Under the
circumstances, the Court finds no basis for apportioning liability between
defendant and Haynes for the rape which occurred on February 10, 1997 in
defendant's facility. Accordingly, the Court finds defendant 100 percent liable
for damages relating to the February
Upon filing of this Decision, the Court will set the matter down for a trial
on the issue of damages as soon as practicable.
LET INTERLOCUTORY JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.