New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-030-518, Claim No. 98394


Synopsis


Inmate's claim alleging medical malpractice, negligence and ministerial neglect dismissed for failure to establish a prima facie case. No expert testimony re:standard of care for regular examinations by medical personnel

Case Information

UID:
2001-030-518
Claimant(s):
LIONEL WILLIAMS
Claimant short name:
WILLIAMS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
98394
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
LIONEL WILLIAMS, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, New York State Attorney General By: ELYSE ANGELICO, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 4, 2001
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision
Lionel Williams, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim number 98394 that while held on keeplock status at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing) he was denied medical attention. Trial of this matter was held at Sing Sing on August 14, 2001.

Claimant relied upon the factual allegations contained in his claim, as well as his own testimony at trial. Claimant testified that in "February, 1998...[he] signed up for sick call" and that he had "previously signed up for sick call" and had gotten "no response."[1]
He testified that he filed a grievance. Claimant produced a one page document from the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee dated April 9, 1998, referring to "Grievance No. 26646/98".
The document indicates: "[g]rievant claims that he was not taken to sick call, and was denied keeplock recreation. Once again, there are apparent inconsistencies in Officer W. Perez's ‘to-from' response. C.O. Perez stated: ‘I was told by another officer not to let keeplock inmate L. Williams...out to recreation because there was an officer coming to get him for sick call and he would be taken to rec when they were finished.' Current block policy is that keeplock inmates are
required to go to recreation yard to await seeing the nurse if they signed up for sick call. Officer Perez needs to be reminded that his main function is the care, custody and control of inmates." (emphasis in original) [Claimant's Exhibit "1", Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee dated April 9, 1998].
The form indicates that the matter was to be forwarded to the Superintendent for action. There was no indication either in the testimony, or as part of any exhibit, that any action was taken. The Claimant testified on cross-examination that this was the "only paper" he "ever received" concerning this grievance.

In his claim, Mr. Williams alleged that on January 13, 14,15,16,20, 1998 and then again on March 24, 1998, he signed up for sick call and got a sick call slip but Correction Officer Perez wouldn't let him out. [Claim No. 98394, Paragraph 3]. On cross-examination, however, he confirmed that he was seen by medical personnel on January 15, 1998. He also recalled receiving copies of a response to an additional grievance he filed on January 20, 1998 numbered 26183-98, which appears to address the alleged omissions of January, 1998. [Defendant's Exhibit "A", Inmate Grievance Committee Report (Superintendent); dated February 12, 1998].

The Superintendent's portion of this grievance report denying the grievance indicates: "[g]rievant said he put in sick call slips for 1/13, 1/14 and was finally seen on 1/15....There is no sick call on Wednesdays, so he would not have been...[seen] 1/14. There is no record of a slip for 1/13....Staff are aware of the sick-call procedure. His medical needs are being addressed."[
Ibid.]
Claimant's Ambulatory Health Record (hereafter AHR) for the period from January 15, 1998 through April 6, 1998 also reflects that Claimant was seen by medical personnel on January 15, 16, 23 and 30, 1998. [Defendant's Exhibit "B", Claimant's Ambulatory Health Record ]. It also confirms that he was seen on March 23, 1998, with respect to receiving an inhaler, and was a "no show" on March 24, 1998. Claimant was seen again on March 27, 1998, and April 1 and 6, 1998. [
Ibid.]
No testimony was offered concerning two other allegations in the claim. The first concerned alleged failures on three dates during February and March, 1998 to be provided with a beverage with his food. The second allegation concerned an alleged failure to provide Claimant with a prescription in or about March, 1998.

No testimony, other than claimant's, was offered.

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 and treatment.
Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789 (3d Dept. 1990), lv. denied, 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 care giver 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 State, 263 AD2d 929, 931 (3d Dept. 1999). Without such medical proof, no viable claim giving rise to liability on the part of the State can be sustained. Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025 (4th Dept. 1976), lv. denied, 40 NY2d 804 (1976). A medical expert's testimony is necessary to establish, at a minimum, the standard of care. Spensieri v Lasky, 94 NY2d 231 (1999).
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 expert testimony.
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, 114 AD2d 254, 256 (1st Dept. 1986). Similarly, the State may be found liable for ministerial neglect if its employees fail to comply with an institution's own administrative procedures and protocols for dispensing medical care to inmates. Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7,10 (2d Dept 1996).
In this case only the testimony of the Claimant has been presented to support any claim of medical malpractice. Claimant's testimony was belied, to some extent, by the medical records substantiating regular examinations by medical personnel. There was no testimony to show that these visits did not provide reasonable care, or even that Claimant suffered any damage. No competent medical evidence was presented, through a treating physician or an expert witness whose opinion was based upon the available medical records, to support the allegation of medical malpractice.

Additionally, from this record there is no indication that the actions of medical care givers amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect.
Coursen v New York Hospital, supra.; Kagan v State of New York, supra. To the extent the claim can be read to assert such theories, any cause of action for negligence or ministerial neglect is also dismissed.
The other allegations, concerning alleged isolated failures to provide a beverage and a prescription, respectively, were simply not established by a preponderance of the evidence.

The Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to establish a
prima facie case, upon which decision was reserved on at the time of trial, is hereby granted and Claim number 98394 is dismissed in its entirety.
The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.


October 4, 2001
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]All quotations are to trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.