New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BURGESS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-028-0004, Claim No. 99654


Medical Malpractice - Inmate alleged malpractice when he was housed in SHU instead of the infirmary following the placement of a splint on his arm. Claim dismissed on State's motion at the conclusion of claimant's case. Claimant failed to produce any competent evidence of malpractice.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Michael Friedman, Esq. Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 9, 2001

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This claim for medical malpractice alleged the State failed to provide the claimant, an inmate at Ulster Correctional Facility, with proper medical care, in that an injury he sustained was not properly diagnosed.[1]

The claimant was the only witness at trial. His testimony outlined his plight from the evening of September 22, 1998 when he slipped in his cell and fractured his arm through the removal of his cast on November 5, 1998. The medical records entered established that on the date of the injury claimant was first treated in the facility infirmary, then transported to Eastern Correctional Hospital Emergency Room (ECHER) to rule out a fracture. At ECHER a preliminary diagnosis of a fractured left arm was made. Claimant was then transported to Albany Medical Center Hospital for further treatment. The hospital discharge report (Exhibit 1) reflected he had a broken bone, that a splint was used to immobilize his arm and also provided other care and follow-up instructions.

At the conclusion of the claimant's case, the State made a trial motion to dismiss the claim pursuant to CPLR 4401.

To establish a prima facie case of liability in a medical malpractice action, a claimant must prove (1) the standard of care in the locality where the treatment occurred, (2) that the defendant breached that standard of care, and (3) that the breach of the standard was the proximate cause of injury.
Berger v Becker, 272 AD2d 565. When the medical malpractice involves patient treatment, three component duties are owed by the physician to the patient: (1) the duty to possess the requisite knowledge and skill such as is possessed by the average member of the medical profession; (2) a duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the application of such professional knowledge and skill; and (3) the duty to use his best judgment in the application of this knowledge and skill. Littlejohn v State of New York 87 AD2d 951, 952 citing Pike v Honsinger, 155 NY 201, 209- 210.
To sustain this burden, a claimant must present expert testimony that the defendant's conduct constituted a deviation from the requisite standard of care.
Berger v Becker, supra; and Koehler v Schwartz, 48 NY2d 807 (Expert testimony is necessary... unless the
matter is one which is within the experience and observation of the ordinary juror).
In considering a CPLR 4401 motion for judgment as a matter of law, the trial court must afford the party opposing the motion every inference which may properly be drawn from the facts presented, the facts must be considered in a light most favorable to the nonmovant and the court may grant the motion if, on the evidence presented, there is no rational process by which the fact trier could base a finding in favor of the nonmoving party.
Szczerbiak v Pilat 90 NY2d 553, 556. Here, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the claimant and
affording him the benefit of every favorable inference, he has failed to establish a prima facie
case of malpractice. The claimant presented no expert testimony to demonstrate that the defendant departed from an accepted standard of care in either diagnosing the injury or in the treatment he received upon his return to the correctional facility.
The Defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

February 9, 2001
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] The gravamen of claimant's testimony at trial was that the malpractice was the State's decision to place him in the Special Housing Unit as opposed to the infirmary when he returned from an outside hospital with his arm in a cast.