New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GAGNE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-013-030, Claim No. 99330, Motion No. M-63210


A prison inmate who was placed on Central Monitoring Case status because of erroneous information in his prison file cannot maintain a claim for emotional distress caused by the imposition of certain restrictions when he attended a family funeral. Claims for the intentional infliction of emotional distress are barred by public policy, and there is no proof that the restrictions were imposed because of the incorrect information.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New York
BY: PAUL VOLCY, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 16, 2001

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


On August 15, 2001, the following papers were read on Defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim.
1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Paul Volcy ("Volcy Affidavit"), with Annexed Exhibits

2. Affidavit[1] in Opposition of Stephen Gagne, pro se ("Gagne Affidavit"), with Annexed Exhibits

3. Claimant's Memorandum of Law ("Gagne Memorandum"), with Annexed Exhibits

4. Filed Papers: Claim; Answer

The claim in this action alleges that on September 17, 1998, when Claimant was released from Wende Correctional Facility to attend his mother's funeral, he was subjected to undue restraint and humiliation because his record improperly contained references to an April 1988 disciplinary proceeding in which he was charged with attempted escape but not convicted. Defendant now moves for summary judgment dismissing the claim on the ground that, as a matter of law, Claimant cannot prevail.

In an order issued May 25, 1999, former Judge (now Justice) John P. Lane denied Claimant's motion for summary judgment in this claim (Motion No M-58949). At that time, there was no cross-motion for summary judgment in favor of Defendant and, in fact, the State made no submission in opposition.[2] In his decision, Judge Lane noted that the dismissed charges had been expunged in December 1998, concluded that there were material issues of fact as to causation, and observed that Claimant's central monitoring status appeared to be appropriate and that "the Court is unaware of any authority to support the granting of damages for the humiliation attendant upon being transported to a family wake or funeral in chains." He also stated:
It is well established that deathbed and funeral leaves are privileges and the denial of such a privilege generally does not give rise to a cause of action for negligence. See Rivera v State of New York, 169 AD2d 885, lv denied 77 NY2d 807. It is certainly not within this Court's jurisdiction to tell DOCS what security measures are appropriate for use at a funeral or wake, and the Court is unaware of any cases that purport to do so. The need for prison officials to have considerable discretion in security matters is well recognized by the courts of this State. See, e.g., Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212.

In support of the instant motion, counsel for Defendant echoes Judge Lane's comments that prison officials have a great deal of latitude in matters of security and questions the existence of a cause of action for humiliation arising from the conditions of an inmate's transport to a family wake or funeral.

Claimant cannot prevail on his claim for money damages arising from the embarrassment and humiliation that he suffered because of the restraints placed upon him when he attended his mother's funeral. In performing acts that constitute official conduct, public policy prohibits an action against the State for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Brown v State of New York, 125 AD2d 750, motion for lv to appeal dismissed 70 NY2d 747; Wheeler v State of New York, 104 AD2d 496; DeLesline v State of New York, 91 AD2d 785, lv denied 58 NY2d 610). Even if a viable cause of action could be maintained, it is evident from documentary evidence provided by Claimant himself that his security status at the time of the funeral was not causally related to the presence of the improper information (see discussion below).

It appears to be undisputed that the record of charges of attempted escape that were brought against Claimant in April 1988 and dismissed shortly thereafter were inappropriately allowed to remain in Claimant's prison files for a period of over ten years, not being removed until December 1998. It also appears that the presence of this reference was a basis for his being placed on Central Monitoring Case (CMC) status in June 1992 (Gagne Memorandum of Law, Exhibit C).[3] I note, however, that at Claimant's request the status designation was reviewed and rescinded two months later. He was immediately reinstated to CMC status, however, because his institutional record revealed him to be "a severe management problem" (id). Thus, at the time of the September 1998 funeral visit, Claimant's security status was not based on consideration of the April 1988 charges.

In his claim, Claimant refers to other negative consequences on an inmate who has been designated an escape risk and placed on CMC status, including "[s]ecurity classifications[,] transfers to facilities closer to home, parole reports to parole board, facility security measures" (Claim, ¶12). The claim does not, however, identify any specific instances in which he suffered such a negative effect, other than the embarrassing circumstances of his family funeral visit. His submissions in opposition to the instant motion do refer to other decisions that were based on this status and that, he contends, were influenced by the presence of reference to the April 1988 charges in his file (see, e.g., Gagne Affidavit, Exhibits 2, 3; Gagne Memorandum of Law, Exhibit M). Even if he were able to prove that those negative decisions were made during the period of time when he was on CMC status because of the April 1988 charges and that those other negative decisions could give rise to a viable cause of action for money damages, this claim would not be preserved, as the only factual allegations in his claim relate solely to the family funeral visit in September 1998.

Defendant's motion is granted and Claim No 99330 is dismissed.

November 16, 2001
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

  1. [1]Claimant's submission is captioned "Affirmation in Opposition." He is not an attorney, physician, osteopath, or dentist, however, and therefore is not entitled to submit an affirmation (CPLR 2106). He may only submit an affidavit in opposition to the motion.
  2. [2]Counsel for Defendant now states that the State was never served with the earlier motion (Volcy Affidavit, ¶6).
  3. [3]CMC status is given to "inmates who, by the nature of their crime or status, require special evaluation and tracking of their movement through the correctional system" (7 NYCRR §1000.1[b]). A history of escape or attempted escape is one factor that can be considered in determining whether an inmate is assigned CMC status; other factors include the sophistication or magnitude of the crime for which they were convicted; the notoriety of the crime, the perpetrator or its victim; the inmate's status as a former public official or informant; and the inmate's institutional record as a "severe management problem" (id, §1000.2).