New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BARMORE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-015-546, Claim No. 98342


Synopsis


Claimant awarded $300.00 in damages for personal injuries sustained when he and other inmates were exposed to fumes resulting from mixture of chlorine bleach and Lime Away in facility mess hall. Liability predicated on inadequate supervision of inmates on work detail.

Case Information

UID:
2001-015-546
Claimant(s):
RODRICK BARMORE
Claimant short name:
BARMORE
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
98342
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Rodrick Barmore, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Timothy P. Mulvey, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 27, 2001
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, seeks $2,000,000.00 in damages for physical injuries sustained as a result of his exposure to fumes generated by the mixture of chlorine bleach and a commercial cleaning agent identified as Lime Away in the mess hall at Marcy Correctional Facility (Marcy) on March 13, 1998. The trial of the claim was held on September 17, 2001.

Claimant asserted that on the day prior to his accident he and other inmates were directed by Sergeant Sean Murphy to clean the mess hall. He alleges that he advised Sergeant Murphy that he was not a mess hall worker implying that he had not been medically authorized to work in that area nor properly trained for such duties. Claimant asserts that despite his admonition to the sergeant he was ordered to clean the mess hall that day and the following day when the accident occurred. On March 13, 1998 claimant alleges that he and the same group of inmates were ordered to clean the rotary gate adjacent to the steam tables in the facility's mess hall. Efforts to clean the gate using soap and water and a power sprayer were unsuccessful and the inmates were instructed by Correction Officer Linehan to use Lime Away on the gate. That too proved to be ineffective. According to the claimant the inmates were then instructed by Officer Linehan to mix bleach with the Lime Away. When the inmates attempted to use the power sprayer to apply the bleach/Lime Away mixture a gas was released which caused the injuries for which claimant seeks compensation. Claimant's injuries included chronic tearing of the eyes, a continuous sore throat making it impossible to eat without discomfort and what he described as severe burns to his face and body. Although claimant testified to repeated visits to the infirmary he offered no medical records in support of his allegations. He asserted that his wounds were bandaged at the facility's infirmary and that he was prescribed hydrocortisone and told to use mild soap. Claimant also testified that as a result of the incident he was removed from work release and, further, that he was neglected when he reported for sick call.

On cross-examination claimant acknowledged that he was the author of Defendant's Exhibit A, a letter or statement addressed to the Attorney General which was sworn to on February 10, 1999 and contains details of the incident. Claimant admitted that Exhibit A identified Sergeant Murphy as the person who ordered the inmates to mix the chlorine bleach and Lime Away to create a more powerful cleaning solution.

The defendant, on its direct case, called Sergeant Murphy who testified that he has been a Correction Sergeant since December 1996 and was the afternoon supervisor of mess hall/recreation at Marcy. He testified further that on March 13, 1998 he was responsible to oversee correction officers who in turn were responsible to supervise inmate porters in carrying out their duties. Sergeant Murphy specifically denied instructing claimant or other inmate porters with regard to the use of any cleaning agent in the mess hall that day. He alleged that he was notified of the accident by a correction officer and that when he responded to the mess hall he found inmate porters coughing and gagging. He moved the inmates outside, sent the inmates to the infirmary, and called fire and safety officers. The witness admitted that when he entered the mess hall the gas in the room burned his nose.

It is well settled that when the State, through its correctional authorities, directs an inmate to participate in a work program during incarceration, it owes the inmate a duty to provide a reasonably safe work place with reasonably safe equipment to work with (
Martinez v State of New York, 225 AD2d 877; Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910). Although inmates who are injured while working in correctional facilities are not entitled to the full protection afforded other workers by the Labor Law (see D'Argenio v Village of Homer, 202 AD2d 883) they are entitled to a reasonably safe work place (Kandrach v State of New York, supra) and they are entitled to proper and appropriate instruction and supervision (Oakley v State of New York, 38 AD2d 998, affd 32 NY2d 773).
Although the claimant was less than clear as to precisely who directed the mixing of bleach and Lime Away to accomplish the task assigned, what is clear is that, whether as a result of a direct order or a failure to adequately supervise the inmates involved, the claimant was injured as a result of the negligence of the defendant. Absent medical proof regarding a continuing injury, the claimant is awarded the sum of $300.00.

The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in accord with this decision.

November 27, 2001
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims