New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BLACK v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-545, Claim No. 99389A


Issue related to treatment of claimant's skin condition lay outside common knowledge of trial judge and required expert proof. Failure to provide such proof resulted in 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:
Charles Black, 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 claim made at the close of claimant's proof at trial for the failure to make out a
prima facie case of medical malpractice is granted.
The claimant seeks $15,000.00 in damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering caused by the failure of medical personnel at two separate correctional facilities to properly diagnose and treat a skin condition. Claimant alleges and the medical records of the facilities demonstrate that while incarcerated at Oneida Correctional Facility (Oneida) claimant visited sick call on September 15, 1997 complaining of itching and a rash on his upper right arm and lower legs. The ambulatory health record for that visit indicates a possible allergic reaction. An additional record for the same date indicates a diagnosis of contact dermatitis and the prescribing of medication (Temovate Ointment) by the service provider. Subsequent to his diagnosis claimant was transferred from Oneida to Mid-State Correctional Facility (Mid-State). Claimant's health record further indicates the claimant was screened upon transfer on September 16, 1997 and the record of that screening stated "health status inquiry, observation & disposition completed." He reported to sick call at Mid-State on September 18, 1997 complaining of a rash on his arms, legs and shoulder. The record reflects that medical personnel at Mid-State prescribed the Temovate which claimant had been prescribed previously but had not received prior to his transfer from Oneida Correctional Facility, and also prescribed Benadryl 25 mg., lactic acid lotion and diphenhydramine.

Claimant's next sick call occurred on October 8, 1997 at which time he continued to complain of itching, mostly at night, papules were noted in the genital area, trunk and upper extremities but not on the claimant's hands. He was prescribed Kwell and Lidex Cream to be used as needed and was isolated from the general population. The records indicate that on the following day claimant was moved from isolation room C-15 to a contact isolation dorm (A-3) pursuant to doctor's orders. Claimant's ambulatory health record for October 16, 1997 indicates that the patient felt better, and no itching, new excoriations nor papules were evident. The record of an audit of claimant on October 27, 1997 mentions no complaint by claimant regarding his skin condition.

Claimant's ambulatory health record for November 4, 1997 contains the following information:
Scabies Outbreak. Individual resides on Housing Unit where suspect case(s) identified. Assessment: Inconclusive? [sic] Potential contact. Plan: prophylactic treatment. Note: inmate to be instructed to report the onset of any skin manifestations, subsequent to the application to the health unit staff. Meds ordered: Lindane Lotion 1% apply the ENTIRE 2% container of lotion in accordance with the application instructions provided. Leave on overnight and shower of [sic] next day.
At trial the claimant testified that while still at Oneida Correctional Facility on some unspecified date he was required to sleep on someone else's mattress. He further testified that following his transfer to Mid-State Correctional Facility he was diagnosed as having dermatitis and was not diagnosed as having scabies until five weeks after his arrival at Mid-State despite what he describes as an epidemic of scabies at both Oneida and Mid-State facilities. Claimant did not produce or offer at trial any expert medical testimony in support of his claim.

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 based upon the lack of expert medical proof regarding the alleged acts of 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 the issues involve conditions beyond the common knowledge of a finder of fact expert medical proof will be required to sustain a recovery (
Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653). The issues raised at trial clearly fall outside the common knowledge of the Court. Claimant has not established any connection between the condition for which he sought treatment at Oneida on September 15, 1997 and the condition he alleges was diagnosed at Mid-State on November 4. Moreover, the medical records presented at trial, including that dated November 4, 1997, do not support claimant's assertion that he was diagnosed as having scabies and certainly do not demonstrate any alleged misdiagnosis. Only expert medical proof could establish the necessary legal causation required to impose liability and demonstrate that there was 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 Council Health Ctr., 272 AD2d 317; Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516).
Here, claimant's failure to present any expert medical proof tending to show a misdiagnosis of claimant's condition and that the defendant's medical employees deviated from accepted medical standards requires the granting of the 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