New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WOODALL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-543, Claim No. 98997


Claimant's failure to offer expert medical proof tending to show DOCS medical personnel deviated from accepted standards of medical care and that harm resulted from the failure to detect an inguinal hernia required dismissal of claim after trial.

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:
Norman Woodall, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Christopher Wiles, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 15, 2001
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Defendant's motion to dismiss the consolidated claim made at the close of claimant's proof at trial for failure to make out a
prima facie case of medical malpractice is granted.
The claim, which was consolidated from two separately filed claims (Claim Nos. 98997 and 99322) by decision and order of this Court dated March 10, 2000, sought to recover damages for the alleged medical malpractice of Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) employees which occurred at Oneida Correctional Facility (Oneida) from May 15, 1998 through August 25, 1998[1]
. Claim No. 98997 was filed on September 21, 1998 and alleges that a facility doctor ordered an immediate general surgery consult for claimant's lower right groin (inguinal) hernia and that the surgery recommended by the consulting physician on July 16, 1998 was not performed by August 25, 1998. Claim No. 99322 was filed on November 18, 1998 and alleges that Dr. Daniel Cooley, a physician employed by DOCS at Oneida, failed to detect claimant's hernia during an examination of claimant on May 15, 1998.
Claimant's ambulatory health records, which were offered and admitted into evidence at trial without objection, demonstrate that on May 11, 1998 claimant attended sick call complaining of pain in his right groin over a three week period, the presence of a large lump which was numb and that claimant experienced a pull when he exercised. The report indicates that claimant was scheduled to see a doctor for evaluation. The following record entry is dated May 13, 1998 and states right groin discomfort for one week, no known injury, no hernia, normal exam. Motrin 600 was prescribed. This report bears the signature of one identified only as "Cooley" with provider number 104. The records further demonstrate that claimant reported to sick call on May 19, 1998 continuing to complain of right groin pain and discomfort including burning and the presence of a lump. An examination by RN Schaller on that date, however, likewise failed to detect any swelling. Claimant next reported to sick call on June 4, 1998 continuing to complain of right groin pain which he reported was getting worse. He was examined on that date by Dr. Robert Lowenstein who reported a right inguinal hernia of moderate size and ordered a general surgery consult. A June 8, 1998 entry indicates claimant was issued a permit for no heavy lifting until the hernia was repaired.

A surgical consultation took place on July 16, 1998 by Dr. John Halverson at the request of Dr. Lowenstein. Dr. Halverson recommended surgical repair with the urgency being described as "soon." The next medical report submitted at trial was dated June 2, 1999 and noted the need for a pre-operative electrocardiogram prior to a scheduled elective right inguinal hernia repair. A subsequent consultation report dated June 17, 1999 appears to contain post operative instructions but does indicate a scheduled surgery date or indicate that the surgery had already occurred. Claimant testified at trial that the hernia repair surgery was, in fact, performed in June 1999 and the claimant's ambulatory health records for August 13 and 24, 1999 support that allegation. Claimant's post-operative period appears to have been uneventful. Claimant's medical records provided no explanation for the eleven month delay between Dr. Halverson's recommendation for surgical repair on July 16, 1998 and claimant's surgery in June 1999. Claimant testified at trial that the staff at Oneida told him they were waiting for the surgery to be approved but he neither identified who provided that information nor stated when he was so advised.

At the close of claimant's proof defendant's counsel moved to dismiss the claim for claimant's failure to make out a
prima facie case since he failed to offer any expert testimony as to the alleged acts of medical malpractice. The Court reserved decision on the motion which will now be addressed.
Whether a claim is couched in terms of negligence or medical malpractice, if issues involve conditions beyond the common knowledge of a fact finder expert medical proof will be required to sustain a recovery (
Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653). The issues raised at trial by claimant's proof clearly fall outside the common knowledge of the Court. While the proof established there was an eleven month delay between the time of claimant's surgical consultation with Dr. Halverson and the date the surgery was actually performed no proof was offered as to what, if any, deleterious effect such delay had on the claimant's health for which he should be compensated. So too, while the medical records demonstrate that neither Dr. Cooley nor Nurse Schaller located or detected claimant's hernia during their separate examinations on May 13, 1998 and May 19, 1998 respectively claimant offered no proof that such failure on the part of either health care provider was a deviation from accepted standards of medical care. Only expert proof could establish the necessary legal causation required to impose liability and demonstrate a deviation from good and accepted standards of medical care (see, Rossi v Arnot Ogden Med. Ctr., 268 AD2d 916; Spicer v Community Family Planning Counsel Health Ctr., 272 AD2d 317; Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516).
Claimant's failure to offer medical proof establishing both a deviation from accepted medical standards and that harm resulted from the alleged deviation requires the granting of the defendant's dismissal motion.

The Clerk shall enter judgment in accord with this decision.

November 15, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]It does not appear that claimant ever instituted a CPLR article 78 proceeding in the nature of mandamus to compel medical/surgical intervention.