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
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).
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
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
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
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
An ambulance was called because of claimant's severe intoxication (T:49, 60).
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
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"
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.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 97167.