New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PARKER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-010-069, Claim No. 97167


Claimant failed to establish excessive force by State police in the course of handcuffing her.

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:
By: Tackel & Varachi Scott Goldstein, Of Counsel
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: Michael Rosas, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 4, 2001
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant seeks damages for injuries she allegedly sustained on October 22, 1996, when, after she was arrested for disorderly conduct and was examined at a nearby hospital, the State troopers handcuffed claimant before traveling 15 to 20 minutes to the police barracks. Claimant contends that the handcuffs were too tight and that the officers refused to loosen them. She claims that the tight handcuffs caused injury to her median nerve and a minor fracture. The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this Decision pertains solely to the issue of liability.
Claimant testified that she and her live-in boyfriend had returned to their upstairs apartment after a birthday celebration. Claimant described herself as intoxicated "[t]o some extent" (T:37).[1] She stated, "I remember what happened so I wouldn't call it falling down drunk" (T:11-12). At 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., the couple engaged in a "heated" argument and the State police were called (T:14).
New York State Troopers Craig Hernandez and Eugene Bell responded to the scene.
Claimant testified that she was crying and the argument was in progress when the troopers arrived (T:15). According to claimant, Hernandez was very hostile and threatened to strangle her dog if he did not stop barking (T:19). In response, claimant jumped up and ran toward the dog who was next to Hernandez. Hernandez sprayed claimant with mace as she approached. Claimant denied striking Hernandez. Claimant's eyes started to burn and she was then taken to the emergency room.
Claimant did not recall if she had been handcuffed during the trip to the hospital. When claimant was released from the hospital, the troopers handcuffed claimant before transporting her to the police barracks. Claimant maintains that she immediately started to scream that the handcuffs were too tight and begged to have them loosened (T:24). Although she complained during the entire ride, her pleas were ignored (T:25-26). The handcuffs were removed when they arrived at the barracks and claimant described her hands as "close to three times" their normal size (T:27). However, she did not complain about her wrists, nor tell anyone at the barracks because "it was an accident. He didn't intentionally hurt me" (T:43).
laimant was given appearance tickets for disorderly conduct and assault and she subsequently pled guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a $50.00 fine.
Claimant testified that, the day after being released from the police barracks, she went to the emergency room where she was x-rayed and told that her median nerve was severed and she had a minor wrist fracture (T:32-33). She did not inform the hospital about the handcuffs because she was embarrassed so she stated that she had injured her wrists by slamming them in a car door (T:34). No documentary evidence was introduced corroborating this alleged hospital visit nor was there any other medical evidence of any injury.
Claimant did not tell the troopers that she had a prior wrist injury from 1986 when she fell 30 feet from a deck and sustained: neck and lower back injuries; collapsed lungs; three broken ribs; and severe fractures to both wrists (T:36). After that injury, her right wrist was in a hard cast for six months and she subsequently underwent a surgical procedure of a carpal tunnel release (T:8, 36). Subsequently, claimant was classified as disabled and received Social Security benefits until 1989 when she obtained employment as an air conditioning mechanic at La Guardia Airport (T:7, 9, 36). In 1993, however, claimant was injured lifting a motor and her Social Security benefits were reinstated (T:9).
Trooper Eugene Bell testified that, as he and Hernandez approached the apartment, Bell heard claimant screaming (T:46). Claimant's boyfriend let the officers inside and Bell observed
claimant to be "highly intoxicated" (T:46, 47). She had difficulty walking and admitted that she "had been drinking all day" (T:47). Claimant fell at the top of the stairs and, as Bell helped her to her feet, she began swinging at him and Hernandez, so Hernandez sprayed her with mace (T:48). Claimant slapped Hernandez (T:49). Claimant was placed under arrest and handcuffed (T:49).
An ambulance was called because of claimant's severe intoxication (T:49, 60). After
claimant was released from the hospital, the officers reapplied the handcuffs before transporting claimant to the police barracks (T:50). While claimant made numerous complaints during the trip to the barracks, she never complained about the cuffs (T:51). She also did not complain at the barracks about the cuffs (T:52). After claimant was released from police custody, she telephoned the barracks a week or two later to apologize and ask for forgiveness (T:52).
Trooper Craig Hernandez testified that
claimant was "highly intoxicated, screaming and yelling" when he arrived at the scene (T:66). Claimant swung at Bell while at the top of the stairs and Hernandez was afraid claimant was going to push Bell down the stairs (T:68). Hernandez tried to intervene and got slapped by claimant. Hernandez sprayed claimant with mace (T:68). Claimant was arrested and transported to the hospital because of her level of intoxication (T:68).
claimant was treated in the hospital, Hernandez cuffed claimant behind her back and, according to standard procedure, "double locked" the cuffs to ensure that they would not become tighter (T:69-71). During claimant's transport to the barracks, she made complaints, but none about her wrists or the cuffs (TR:79). Subsequent to claimant's release, she telephoned Hernandez and apologized (T:72). According to Hernandez, "she sounded intoxicated" (T:72).
Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that
claimant failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the handcuffs were applied too tightly and that this caused her injury. In addition to claimant's lack of credibility and candor, she failed to present any evidence corroborating her claimed injury and the alleged hospital visit after her release from police custody.
All motions not heretofore ruled upon, are DENIED.


September 4, 2001
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] References to the trial transcript are preceded by the letter "T."