New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WHEELER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-159, Claim No. 103821, Motion No. M-63282


Inmate claim dismissed for failure to specify negligence on part of DOCS personnel while claimant alleges an attack by unknown assailant in prison hallway.

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:
Peter Wheeler, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: G. Lawrence Dillon, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 15, 2001
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Defendant's unopposed motion to dismiss the instant claim for failure to comply with the requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) is granted. This claim seeks to recover unspecified damages for personal injuries sustained in a knife attack at Mid-State Correctional Facility which claimant alleges is attributable to the negligence of DOCS personnel. Paragraph 2 of the claim alleges:
The claim is for negligence of the State through the act(s) of its employee(s). Details of said act(s) are as follows:

While returning from morning chow - in the hallway - company 1E - A.S.A.T. [sic] program - I was stab [sic] with a knife - the steady officer N. Caivaria sat in his office an [sic] continue to write something.
Claimant utilized what appears to be a pre-printed claim form and failed to specify the damages sought in the space provided therefor in paragraph 6 of the claim.

Section 11 (b) of the Court of Claims Act, in relevant part, provides:
b. The claim shall state the time when and place where such claim arose, the nature of same, and the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and the total sum claimed.
It is well established that the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) are jurisdictional in nature and must be strictly construed (Park v State of New York, 226 AD2d 153). While a notice of intention to file a claim will be deemed sufficient if it substantially complies with the pleading requirements of the Court of Claims Act, more is required of a claim (Ferrugia v State of New York, 237 AD2d 858). A claim must set forth a cause of action against the State and, at the very least, assert in some factual manner the nature of the State's alleged negligence (Bonaparte v State of New York, 175 AD2d 683). The onus to comply with the pleading prerequisites contained in section 11 (b) is upon the claimant and the State "is not required to go beyond a claim or notice of intention in order to investigate an occurrence or ascertain information which should be provided pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11" (Grande v State of New York, 160 Misc 2d 383, 386).

The instant claim is insufficient to meet the requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b). The allegation that the claimant's injuries were sustained in a knife attack in a hallway of a State correctional facility by an unidentified assailant without any specific allegation of negligence on the part of the State does not "provide a sufficiently detailed description of the particulars of the claim to enable the State to investigate and promptly ascertain the existence and extent of its liability" (Sinski v State of New York, 265 AD2d 319).

"Conclusory or general allegations of negligence that fail to adduce the manner in which claimant was injured and how the State was negligent do not meet [section 11's] requirements" (Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d 767). The claimant here has failed to alert the defendant "as to the nature of the alleged negligence" (Grumet v State of New York, 256 AD2d 441, 442) in that he has not specified the total sum claimed, identified his attacker, alleged that the State had prior notice that such an attack would occur or that the State should have reasonably foreseen such an attack and failed to take appropriate measures to prevent it. Importantly, the claimant has not stated or alleged that the correction officer observed or should have observed the attack and failed to act. On the facts alleged in the instant claim there is no basis on which to predicate the State's liability since it is well settled that "[t]he State . . . is not an insurer of inmate safety, and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an incident" (Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842, 843; (see also, Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914 lv denied 76 NY2d 711).

The claimant's failure to comply with the pleading requirements contained in section 11 (b) of the Court of Claims Act deprives the Court of jurisdiction and requires the granting of the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim.

June 15, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated March 23, 2001;
  2. Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon dated March 23, 2001, with exhibit.