New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BROWN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-129, Claim No. 103284, Motion No. M-62874


Inmate claimant may not seek admissions of ultimate facts in action based upon alleged battery by correction officers. Notice to admit containing proper and improper requests was struck since it is not Court's role to prune notice to admit.

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:
Antonio Brown,
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Joel L. Marmelstein, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 14, 2001
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant's motion pursuant to CPLR § 3103 for an order striking the claimant's request for admissions dated December 4, 2000 on the ground that the request is improper is granted. The underlying claim seeks to recover money damages for an alleged assault and battery upon the claimant by one or more correction officers at Oneida Correctional Facility on August 28, 2000. Claimant's request for admissions identifies one of the alleged assailants and seeks certain admissions by that individual as to the truth of the following statements:
1. Admit that you worked in the Special Housing Unit on August 28, 2000 at 7:00 a.m.

2. Admit that on August 28, 2000 Mr. Brown told you that 18 cell did not get a breakfast tray.

3. Admit that on August 28, 2000 you searched 18 cell ( Mr. Brown's cell) for contraband.

4. Admit that on August 28, 2000 you recorded in the log book that you searched Mr. Brown's cell for contraband.

5. Admit that on August 28, 2000 you didn't give Mr. Brown a breakfast tray.

6. Admit that on August 28, 2000 you told Mr. Brown that he refused breakfast.

7. Admit that on August 28, 2000 you grabbed Mr. Brown around the neck from behind, in the search area of the S.H.U.

8. Admit that on August 28, 2000 you tackled Mr. Brown to the ground face down.

9. Admit that on August 28, 2000 Mr. Brown told you that, when you were giving out breakfast, he heard you talking to the inmate in the cell next to his.

10. Admit that you were questioned by the Superintendent's office about the incident that involved Mr. Brown on August 28, 2000.

11. Admit that on August 28, 2000, you kicked and punched Mr. Brown in the stairway.

12. Admit that on August 28, 2000, you took Mr. Brown handcuffed down the stairway.

13. Admit that you were questioned by the grievance department about the August 28, 2000 incident.

14. Admit that you answered questions in regards [sic] to an investigation by the Commissioner's office pertaining to the incident that occurred, with you involved, on August 28, 2000 at 8:00 a.m.

15. Admit that you denied any involvement with the inmate (Brown) at the cell on August 28, 2000.

16. Admit that you were questioned by the Department of Law regarding the incident that occurred on August 28, 2000 at 8 a.m.

17. Admit that you, a sergeant and three other officers went to Mr. Brown [sic] cell to take him out of his cell on August 28, 2000 at 8:00 a.m.

18. Admit that you did not endorse the report written by C.O. D. J. Mullan on August 28, 2000.
The defendant's attorney, alleging that many of the requests for admissions were not the proper subject of inquiry under CPLR § 3123 (a), moved for a protective order on two grounds. First, it is argued that the correction officer from whom the admissions are sought is not a party to this action since the State of New York is the only properly named defendant in the Court of Claims. Secondly, defendant's attorney argues that most of claimant's requests are outside the scope and purpose of a notice to admit. Claimant opposed the motion arguing that the named correction officer may properly be the subject of a notice to admit as an officer or employee of the defendant State of New York (citing, Matter of Lakeland Water Dist. v Onondaga County Water Auth., 24 NY2d 400.[1])

It is well established that "[a] notice to admit pursuant to CPLR 3123 [a] is to be used only for disposing of uncontroverted questions of fact or those that are easily provable, not for the purpose of compelling admissions of fundamental and material issues or ultimate facts that can only be resolved after a full trial" (Meadowbrook-Richman, Inc. v Cicchiello, 273 AD2d 6). "The statute, which is captioned, 'Admissions to matters of fact, papers, documents and photographs', permits service of a request for admissions 'of the genuineness of any papers or documents, or the correctness or fairness of representation of any photographs, described in and served with the request, or of the truth of any matters of fact set forth in the request, as to which the party requesting the admission reasonably believes there can be no substantial dispute at the trial and which are within the knowledge of such other party or can be ascertained by him upon reasonable inquiry.' (CPLR 3123, subd [a]; emphasis added.)" (Berg v Flower Fifth Ave. Hosp., 102 AD2d 760). Claimant's notice to admit improperly demands that defendant concede certain matters which are obviously in dispute, including that the named correction officer grabbed claimant around the neck (item 7), forced him to the ground (item 9) and punched and kicked him (item 11). It is not the obligation of the Court to prune a notice to admit which, as in the instant case, contains requests which may be properly answerable interspersed with others which are not (see, Kimmel v Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, 214 AD2d 453, 454; Octave v State of New York, Ct Cl, October 24, 2000 [Claim No. 97393, Motion No. M-62068], Read, J., unreported). Instead, appellate courts have repeatedly affirmed the vacatur of such mixed notices to admit in their entirety (see, Berg v Flower Fifth Ave. Hosp., 102 AD2d 760, 761; Lewis v Hertz Corp., 193 AD2d 470).

That is the course that will be followed here. Claimant's request for admissions is improper in that it seeks admissions regarding contested facts relating to the essence of the dispute between the parties (State of New York v Trionix Research Lab., 266 AD2d 687). As a result, the defendant's motion for a protective order striking the request is granted.

March 14, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated December 19, 2000;
  2. Affirmation in support of motion of Joel L. Marmelstein dated December 19, 2000 with exhibits.
  3. Answer of Antonio Brown to defendant's motion for a protective order dated December 25, 2000.

[1]Cited by claimant as Lakeland v Onondaga, 301 NYS2d 1.