Robert Sims, the Claimant herein, claims negligence and medical malpractice by
the Defendant's employees in failing to heed the Claimant's indications to
mental health personnel that he was hearing voices telling him to hurt himself.
He alleges he cut his wrist on August 12, 1997. The trial of this matter was
held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing) on July 27, 2001.
Claim numbers 97228 and 96991, alleging assault by a correction officer, were
heard at the same time. Exhibits were marked in a continuous series for the
The Court has carefully reviewed
the Notices to Admit referred to above, and finds that at least some of the
facts asserted therein are pertinent to the present claim.
The Claimant testified to essentially the same facts contained in his claim.
On August 12, 1997 he cut his left wrist with the broken edges of a plastic cup
while in his cell of the Special Housing Unit (hereafter SHU). [Claimant's
Exhibit "11", Inmate Misbehavior Report dated August 12, 1997]. The Claimant
asserted that the Misbehavior Report confirms that he asked for placement in the
Psychiatric Unit (hereafter PSU) at that time.
In the report Correction Officer E. Vaughn writes that the Claimant was
"jumping up and down on his bed. When asked what the problem was he stated he
wanted to go to PSU. PSU was consulted and stated that they tried to talk to
Sims but he had refused their help earlier. When advised by this writer of
PSU's response, inmate Sims broke up plastic cup and began hacking at his arm,
saying ‘I bet I'll go to PSU now.' Medical was advised of his action and
he was bandaged up in his cell without further incident."[
As noted, it appears he received medical treatment for his injuries, with the
nurse on call noting that it was an "alleged self injury to left wrist;" and
that the area was cleaned with water, and an antiseptic ointment was applied as
well as gauze. [Claimants Exhibit "10", Report of Inmate Injury dated August 12,
The Claimant testified that he was never invited to give his version of the
event, "although the form requires it." 
On the form itself the inmate is reported as indicating "I'm OK" in the section
entitled "Inmate's Statement." [Ibid
.]. He asserted that he had been
"hearing voices" for some time, and had notified mental health staff that he
wished to go to the Psychiatric Unit. The Defendant stipulated that the
Claimant had made numerous inquiries of Sing Sing personnel - both at the
immediate level and at the administrative level - concerning his placement in a
mental health unit.
The nurse's notes in Claimant's Ambulatory Health Record (hereafter AHR) for
August 12, 1997 indicate "PSU notified and [Claimant] seen by...[Registered
Nurse] no action taken at this time." [Claimant's Exhibit "9", Ambulatory Health
Record for August 12, 1997- August 14, 1997].
The notes for August 13, 1997, where legible, indicate that "inmate
) undressed - will need to be rescheduled."
The notes for August 14, 1997, where legible, indicate the Claimant
"[complains] that he was not seen by M.D. yesterday. States he was not hostile
as per above AHR;...[complains of] lump on testicles; reschedule...[with] Kapoor
next week." [
Claimant said he has never received treatment for his mental illness, although
he has complained of symptoms repeatedly.
Claimant's Exhibit "13" is a voluminous medical record detailing the Claimant's
medical history - apparently not necessarily complete or in consecutive order
from this Court's review - dated from approximately October 11, 1990 through
November 21, 1997. The record indicates that the Claimant was regularly seen by
both medical and psychiatric personnel from the time of his incarceration
through the period referred to in his claim, had varying operating diagnoses
including "anti-social personality disorder", and had been prescribed various
antipsychotic drugs throughout his incarceration.
On August 17, 1997 the AHR indicates he was seen in the morning, after an
"out-burst in HBC night of 8/16/97. Morning of 8/17/97 out burst again. On
psych. med. On Naprosyn 500 mg." [Claimant's Exhibit "13", AHR dated August 15,
1997 - August 17, 1997]. This record appears to be from the PSU of Sing Sing
where he was evaluated.
On the same day, he was transferred to Shawangunk SHU and continued to be seen
by medical personnel. [Claimant's Exhibit "13", AHR dated August 17, 1997 -
August 19, 1997]. The notes indicate that on August 19, 1997 the Claimant went
from Shawangunk to Clinton Correctional Facility mental health unit. [
] These records also indicate that on August 19, 1997 he was noted
as needing "[r]esidential crisis treatment" and was "highly dangerous to self
and others." [Claimant's Exhibit "13", Treatment Needs/Service Level Designation
for Robert Sims at Central New York Psychiatric Center dated August 19,
On August 22, 1997 Claimant was returned to Shawangunk SHU. On August 27,
1997 and again on August 28, 1997 the "Claimant try to hang himself."
[Claimant's Second Request for Admissions, dated August 14, 1998
The Claimant did not offer any testimony by a medical or psychiatric
It is "fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and
adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons," including proper diagnosis
Rivers v State of New York
, 159 AD2d 788, 789 (3d Dept. 1990),
, 76 NY2d 701 (1990).
In a medical malpractice claim, the Claimant has the burden of proof and must
prove (1) a deviation or departure from accepted practice and (2) evidence that
such deviation was the proximate cause of the injury or other damage. A cause
of action is premised in medical malpractice when it is the medical treatment,
or the lack of it, that is in issue. A Claimant must establish that the medical
caregiver either did not possess or did not use reasonable care or best judgment
in applying the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners in the
field. The "‘claimant must [demonstrate]... that the physician deviated
from accepted medical practice and that the alleged deviation proximately caused
his (or her) injuries' (
Parker v State of New York
, 242 AD2d 785, 786...)." Auger v
, 263 AD2d 929, 931 (3d Dept. 1999). Without such medical proof, no
viable claim that gives rise to liability on the part of the State can be
sustained. Hale v State of New York
, 53 AD2d 1025 (4th Dept. 1976),
, 40 NY2d 804 (1976). A medical expert's testimony is
necessary to establish, at a minimum, the standard of
If a claim can be read to allege simple negligence, or medical negligence, then
the alleged negligent omissions or acts by the State's employees can be readily
determined by a fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity of
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center
, 114 AD2d 254, 256
(1st Dept. 1986).
In this case only the testimony of the Claimant and limited information from
the AHR and other medical records have been submitted to support the claim of
medical malpractice. No competent medical evidence was presented, either from a
treating physician, such as a treating psychiatrist, or a psychologist, or an
expert witness whose opinion was based upon the available medical records, to
support the allegation of medical malpractice. Accordingly, there is no
medical evidence on any medical issue and no proof that accepted standards of
care were not met.
, Pike v State of New York
, 266 AD2d 525 (2d Dept.
Additionally, from this record there is no indication that the actions of
medical caregivers amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect.
Kagan v State of New York
, 221 AD2d 7 (2d Dept. 1996); Coursen v New
. Claimant has failed to establish a
The Defendant's motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved on at the
time of trial, is hereby granted and Claim number 97290 is hereby dismissed.
Let Judgment be entered dismissing Claim number 97290.