Claimant seeks damages for injuries that she allegedly sustained on November 17,
1995 and December 18, 1995 while she was incarcerated at Taconic Correctional
Facility ("Taconic"). The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this Decision
pertains solely to the issue of liability.
This claim involves two separate incidents. The first occurred on November
Claimant testified that on that day, she was in her cell at Taconic while
maintenance personnel had been repairing the heat and hot water in her housing
unit. Due to the work in progress, the water had been turned off in the sink in
her cell. After the task was completed, claimant was advised that she could
resume use of her sink. According to claimant, she turned on the faucet; heard
a bubbling noise; and hot water "popped out,"
hitting her in the face. She received immediate attention and was taken to the
Claimant's second mishap involves a slip and fall on December 18, 1995.
Claimant testified that she had been playing cards and then returned to her cell
when other inmates had to fulfill their daily assignment and clean the public
areas of her housing unit. Claimant was aware that the floor had been mopped
when she decided to leave her cell to visit another inmate. She noticed that
the floor, which was gray cement, was damp. Claimant testified that she "paid
the dampness no mind" as she proceeded to walk approximately 12 feet on the wet
floor before falling in a puddle which she described as seven inches in
diameter. On cross-examination, she was confronted with her examination before
trial testimony that she had walked 25 to 35 feet before she had fallen. At
trial, claimant conceded that her memory was "very bad now" since she has had a
heart attack and was on medication for various ailments.
According to claimant, inmates always walked on wet floors and she thought that,
due to her rubber-soled shoes, she could safely walk on the damp floor as she
had done in the past. She stated that there were wet floor signs stored in a
closet, but that they were never used; she conceded that the signs were
unnecessary if the water was visible.
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; Preston v State of New York
, 59 NY2d 997, 998; Basso v
, 40 NY2d 233,241).
The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of its premises and
negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (
, Killeen v State of New York
, 66 NY2d 850, 851; Condon v
State of New York
, 193 AD2d 874). In order to prevail on her claim,
claimant must show: the existence of a foreseeably dangerous condition; that
the State created the condition or had either actual or constructive notice of
the condition; that the State failed to remedy the condition within a reasonable
time; that such condition was a proximate cause of claimant's accident; and that
claimant sustained damages (see
, Gordon v American Museum of Natural
, 67 NY2d 836; Ligon v Waldbaum, Inc.
, 234 AD2d 347; Mercer
v City of New York
, 223 AD2d 688, affd.
Upon listening to claimant testify and observing her demeanor as she did so,
the Court finds that the credible evidence failed to establish claimant's burden
of proof with regard to either incident. First, with regard to the faucet
claimant was not credible. Moreover, claimant failed to establish that
defendant had either actual or constructive notice of the alleged excessively
hot water and then failed to address such condition within a reasonable time
, Daughtery v City of New York
, 137 AD2d 441, 444 [where
defendant had constructive notice based upon evidence that the water had been
excessively hot for "many months" prior to the incident and the boiler and pipes
were in "substantial disrepair"]).
Second, with regard to claimant's slip and fall, the evidence established that
claimant's own negligence was the sole proximate cause of her fall. She was
bound to see that which was there to be seen (
, Johnston v State of New York
, 127 AD2d 980, 981) and she
admittedly knew that the floor was wet. Nonetheless, she "paid the dampness no
mind" and continued to walk on the wet floor for a minimum of 12 feet before
falling. She testified that inmates always walked on wet floors and she thought
she could do so without incident because she was wearing rubber-soled shoes.
Unfortunately for claimant, she was mistaken. However, there is no basis for
holding defendant liable for her wanton disregard of what should have been an
obvious risk (see
, Paulo v Great Atl. & Pac. Tea Co.
, 233 AD2d
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 97088-A.