New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-010-067, Claim No. 98432


Inmate failed to establish that correction officer used excessive force in restraining him.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: John Healey, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 4, 2002
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, George Williams, seeks damages for injuries he sustained on August 14, 1997, during his incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing"), when Correction Officers Timothy McDonough and Timothy Burns allegedly used excessive force on claimant after he was handcuffed. The claim also alleges that the force used violated claimant's State Constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this Decision pertains solely to the issue of liability.
Claimant testified that he had been given an erroneous receipt regarding the balance in his commissary account. Commissary Officer Williams discovered that the receipt belonged to another inmate named Williams ("Williams"). According to claimant, the other inmate Williams was irate and accused claimant of stealing the receipt. Claimant testified that he remained calm and the matter was resolved. He further testified he did not raise his voice to the Commissary Officer because she was a woman.[1]
observed Correction Officer McDonough nearby and attempted to explain the situation to him. McDonough directed claimant to proceed with him in the direction of the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"). Claimant stopped moving and started crying because he thought he was headed for placement in SHU. When they were 12 feet from SHU, Correction Officer Burns approached and directed claimant to raise his hands for a frisk. According to claimant, he did not resist and he was handcuffed behind his back. Claimant maintains that, despite his compliance, McDonough grabbed claimant's cuffed hands and pushed them up toward his neck. Claimant heard a pop, felt pain radiate down his right side to his hand and started screaming. He thought his arm had been broken. According to Claimant, McDonough then pulled his pin radio to call for assistance. Several correction officers and Sergeant Crawford responded to the scene. Claimant was taken to the facility infirmary and later transported to St. Agnes Hospital. He sustained a fracture to his right arm (humerus) (Ex. 1).
McDonough testified that he was the escort officer in the SHU and was
directed to clear the A block corridor because an extraction team was scheduled to pass through the area. He explained that an extraction team was comprised of four or five correction officers, with shields and chemical agents, who are dispatched to remove inmates who have refused to exit their cells.
As McDonough was clearing the hallway of all inmates, he observed
claimant in the A block corridor and directed him to walk toward the SHU corridor. McDonough explained that he had to act quickly and had no other alternative for claimant's placement. According to McDonough, claimant became hostile and abusive while waving his hands in defiance of McDonough's order for claimant to keep his hands in his pockets. Concerned about his own safety, McDonough directed claimant to put his hands on the wall for a frisk. As McDonough tried to perform the frisk, claimant removed his hands from the wall. McDonough tried to bring claimant's hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Contrary to claimant's testimony, McDonough stated that he did not have a pin radio to call for assistance. Burns entered the area and, after a struggle with claimant, claimant was cuffed. McDonough recalled that claimant did not stop resisting until after there was a popping sound in claimant's arm. Claimant was escorted to the Sing Sing emergency room. McDonough denied pushing claimant's cuffed hands higher than the small of his back. Claimant was issued a Misbehavior Report for his confrontation with inmate Williams and the refusal to follow a direct order of a correction officer (Ex. A).
Burns testified that he was stationed just inside the main door to the SHU and heard a commotion in the hallway. He opened the door and observed claimant taking his arms off the wall and arguing with McDonough. McDonough could not complete the frisk because
claimant kept trying to turn and remove his hands from the wall. Burns proceeded to assist McDonough and they decided to cuff claimant. Burns placed a cuff on claimant's left wrist, but he continued struggling. McDonough pulled claimant's right arm. Burns heard a "pop" and then claimant stopped resisting. Claimant's hands, which were in the small of his back, were both cuffed. Burns did not have a pin radio to summon help.
Correction Officer Richard Romaine, the SHU
supervisor, testified that he heard a commotion in the SHU corridor and followed Burns to the scene. Romaine observed McDonough's difficulty as he attempted to frisk claimant. Claimant was not complying; he was pushing off the wall; removing his hands; and turning his head.
Romaine noted that Burns took claimant's left arm and pulled it to the small of his back while applying the handcuffs. McDonough took claimant's right hand.
Claimant was struggling and McDonough was having difficulty. Ultimately, the handcuffs were applied and both of claimant's hands were at the small of his back. Neither officer forced claimant's hands up his back and Romaine never observed the officers strike claimant. Romaine did have a pin radio, but he did not activate it during this incident. Claimant was escorted to the infirmary.
Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that the credible evidence establishes that, while
claimant sustained a fractured arm, the amount of force used was not excessive under the circumstances presented (see, Passino v State of New York, 260 AD2d 915) and there was no violation of claimant's State Constitutional rights (see, Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172).
Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved, is now GRANTED.


April 4, 2002
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] In light of the fact that claimant was convicted of raping a woman, his testimony that he would not raise his voice to a woman strains credulity.