The claim sets forth a cause of action for battery based on an allegation that
Claimant was physically attacked by correction officers on May 10, 1997 at Great
Meadow Correctional Facility.
The elements of a claim for battery are (1) bodily contact, which is (2)
harmful or offensive and (3) made with intent (
Masters v Becker
, 22 AD2d 118).
On May 8, 1997, Claimant was examined at the facility health clinic for an
injury to the left side of his chest. The medical records indicate that he fell
and struck his chest on a sink. X-rays of the injured area did not show any
evidence of fracture, bone or joint abnormality. Claimant testified that he
went to sick call on May 9, 1997 because of pain he was
. He also testified that he had requested of Correction Officer Isom that he
not be required to perform his mopping duties because of the pain it caused him
and that Correction Officer Isom agreed and gave him a different job. On May
10, 1997, he was again given the assignment of mopping in the mess hall.
Claimant testified that he completed his assignment even though he was in pain
because he thought that if he asked for another job the correction officer would
think that he was trying to get out of work.
After completing the mopping he asked to go to emergency sick call. According
to Claimant, Correction Officer Isom became upset and cursed at him saying that
he was trying to get out of work. Claimant testified that he gathered his
belongings and went to stand by the door. The correction officer approached him
and asked him why he didn't go on sick call yesterday. The argument became loud
and according to Claimant, the correction officer pressed his emergency response
button and then hit Claimant in the side of the head. The correction officer
hit Claimant three more times and Claimant tried to grab him but when he
couldn't, he started to punch back. At this point, according to Claimant, he
was hit on the leg by another correction officer and went down to the floor. A
correction officer grabbed him by his dread locks and hit his head on the floor.
He was handcuffed and taken out of the mess hall. Claimant testified that he
was hit all along the way to the hospital area and again when he was escorted
from the hospital to the special housing unit.
The version of events offered by Defendant also involves correction officers
employing force against Claimant but only for the purposes of self defense and
to restrain Claimant.
Justification is a defense to an action for battery (2 NY PJI 26 [Supp]).
Justification in using physical force exists for a correction officer when an
inmate resists or disobeys any lawful direction and it is necessary to maintain
order or enforce observation of discipline (Penal Law §35.10; Correction
Law §137). To establish the defense, Defendant must demonstrate that
the officer used objectively reasonable force (see,
Higgins v City of Oneonta
, 208 AD2d 1067).
Correction Officer Isom testified that on May 10, 1997, he had assigned
Claimant the job of sweeping and mopping section one of the mess hall. After
Claimant completed his assignment, he requested permission to go to emergency
sick call. According to Officer Isom, he advised Claimant that because of the
nature of his injury he would need the permission of a supervisor. Claimant
then told Officer Isom that if he wanted him to see a supervisor he would have
to get one. The officer testified that Claimant later put his hands in the
officer's face and demanded that he get a supervisor. The officer told Claimant
to get his hands out of his face and then Claimant punched Officer Isom on the
right side of his face knocking his glasses off. According to Officer Isom,
Claimant again struck him in the face and the officer struck back in self
defense. Other officers arrived on the scene to help restrain the inmate and
Claimant was placed in handcuffs and leg irons and escorted from the area.
Officer Isom testified that that was the last time he saw Claimant that
The testimony presents conflicting versions of what occurred in the mess hall.
In Claimant's version the force used was unprovoked and constitutes a battery.
In the version offered by Defendant force was used only to restrain Claimant and
was reasonable under the circumstances. Liability, or the absence of it,
depends on crediting one version rather than the other.
In examining Claimant's testimony there are some aspects of his story which
appear inconsistent. He testified that on the day before the incident he asked
Officer Isom if he could be relieved of his mopping duties and the officer
agreed. In addition, he had been examined by the medical staff who considered
his complaints to be serious enough to warrant X-rays. Yet on the next day,
according to Claimant, he was concerned that the officer who had earlier
relieved him of his mopping duties would think that he was trying to get out of
work if he asked for another job. Then, again according to Claimant, after he
had completed his assignment the officer accused him of trying to get out of
These aspects of Claimant's version of the events do not ring true and serve to
undermine the believability of his testimony regarding the other circumstances
of the incident.
Based upon the foregoing the testimony of Officer Isom is credited and the
court finds that the force employed by correction officers was justified.
Accordingly, the claim is dismissed.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.