Claimant seeks damages for injuries she sustained on February 23, 1999, during
her incarceration at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility ("Bedford"), when she
caught the tips of her second and third fingers of her left hand in the feed
slot of her cell door.
Claimant contends that, after a heated argument with Correction Officer Ruth
Leslie, Leslie closed the feed slot intentionally on claimant's hand to end a
verbal discourse. Leslie denied any intention to hurt claimant, and maintained
that she closed the slot, without awareness of claimant's proximity to the
hinged door, and did so because claimant had been spitting and throwing things
at Leslie through the slot and had threatened to throw toilet water at Leslie.
The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this Decision pertains solely to the
issue of liability.
Claimant was serving a sentence for a term of three to six years. During her
incarceration, except for approximately six months, claimant was housed in the
Special Housing Unit ("SHU") because of her repeated drug and disciplinary
problems. Claimant stated that she had " a lot of disturbances and drug
charges" at Bedford.
On February 23, 1999, after being with an outside visitor,
claimant was found to be in possession of narcotics and a cigarette lighter.
Accordingly, claimant was transferred from SHU to the Satellite Unit. The
Satellite Unit houses inmates with mental and behavioral problems including drug
abusers (Ex. 6, p. 22). Claimant was placed in an observation cell with a solid
steel door. The lower part of the door had a hinged feed slot that measured
approximately 18 x 6 inches and opened down and out into the
conceded that she was acting in an uncooperative manner and described her mental
state as agitated, upset, and frustrated. She testified that she was kneeling
on the floor with her hands resting on the open feed slot. Correction Officer
Ogglesby attempted to calm claimant by speaking to her through the slot.
Thereafter, Correction Officer Leslie arrived. Claimant testified that she had
no prior relationship with Leslie. Although claimant could not recall
specifics, she stated that she and Leslie engaged in a heated argument and
claimant admitted cursing at Leslie. According to claimant, the argument ended
when, without warning, Leslie, who was at a distance of two feet from the feed
slot, closed the slot on claimant's hands. Claimant was able to pull her right
hand away, but the door caught the tips of claimant's second and third fingers
of her left hand. Claimant screamed and Leslie immediately opened the
At claimant's examination before trial, she testified that the argument stopped
when claimant threatened to throw toilet water on Leslie and Leslie responded by
closing the feed slot. At trial, claimant denied making any
Leslie testified that she has been employed as a correction officer at Bedford
for 13 years. On February 23, 1999 at 6:16 p.m., Leslie conducted her first
round on the Satellite Unit. She
observed some liquid in front of the observation cell and heard claimant
screaming and banging the feed slot. Claimant yelled, cursed, spit and threw
wet paper at Leslie through the feed slot. Leslie reported the events to her
supervisor and continued her rounds.
At 6:35 p.m., as Leslie made her second round, claimant continued to "throw
stuff," "spit," and threatened to throw "s*** water" from her cell through the
feed slot. On the third round at 7:00 p.m., Leslie observed claimant get up
and move toward the toilet in her cell. Leslie reacted by closing the feed slot
to prevent claimant from throwing anything else. As Leslie attempted to bolt
the feed slot shut, she heard claimant return to the door and a splash. Leslie
felt pressure from the other side of the door, but could not determine what was
happening. Upon hearing
claimant say she was hurt, Leslie immediately opened the slot and observed
claimant's blood. Leslie summoned medical assistance for
Leslie maintained that she tried to close the slot while claimant was headed
toward the toilet. Leslie denied becoming agitated by claimant's cursing and
yelling and described such activities as an everyday occurrence in the Satellite
Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they
did so, the Court finds that claimant's testimony strains credulity and that
claimant failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that
Leslie acted either intentionally or negligently in closing the feed slot.
Accordingly, the claim is dismissed.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 100129.