New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

STANTON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-011-102, Claim No. 98310


Claimant's cause of action for battery based on an allegation that Claimant was physically attacked by correction officers is dismissed.

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):

Claimant's attorney:
Michael A. Stanton, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General(Michael W. Friedman, Esq., Assistant Attorney General)
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 20, 2001
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

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 experiencing[1]
. 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[2]; Correction Law §137[5]). 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 day.

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 work.

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.

June 20, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]The medical records in evidence do not contain any entry for treatment on May 9, 1997 and it is unclear whether the record is inaccurate or if Claimant mistakenly recalled the May 8, 1997 visit as having occurred on May 9, 1997. In either event the discrepancy is unimportant to the determination of the issues in this claim.