Edward Roberson alleges in Claim number 98582, that he was injured while
playing basketball because of Defendant's negligent failure to maintain a
basketball court at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing).
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 on July 4, 1996, while
playing basketball in the A-block yard, he slipped in a puddle of water causing
him to lose his balance and fall into an unpadded steel basketball frame. He
indicated that there was no "cap or
on the "very sharp steel frame," and when he fell it took a "chunk out of his
[right] leg." Mr. Roberson had to be carried from the yard, ultimately
receiving nine stitches in his leg at St. Agnes Hospital. He suffered
"excruciating pain, walked on crutches for a month", and continues to experience
"numbness in the shin area and below the knee to his
In the Report of Inmate Injury concerning the incident the "inmate's statement"
is noted as: "I fell and hit my leg on the metal support for the basket;" and
the "cause of injury" is noted as "sports." [Claimant's Exhibit "9", Report of
Inmate Injury, dated July 4, 1996]. Notations in Claimant's Ambulatory Health
Record (hereafter AHR) state that "while jumping up to make a basketball shot,
[Claimant] fell into metal support which holds up the basket (stanchion)
striking...[right leg]...." [Claimant's Exhibit "9", AHR for May 20, 1996
through July 18, 1996].
Several photographs taken of Claimant near the time of the incident show what
appears to be a deep cut in his right leg [Claimant's Exhibit "6", Photographs
of injured right leg, taken on July 4, 1996], and the series of stitches used to
repair his injury. [Claimant's Exhibits "4" and "5", Photographs of right leg
taken on July 10, 1996].
Photographs taken of the basketball frame itself show an apparently portable
structure - in the sense that it is not cemented into the ground - which
appears to be constructed out of box steel tubing or some other hollow metal.
[Claimant's Exhibits "1", "2", "3" and "6"]. It has a rectangular shaped base.
On the left side of the front part of the rectangular base as one faces the
basketball hoop, there is an extension of the base at a right angle, presumably
duplicated on the other side of the base, but not shown in the photographs.
[Claimant's Exhibits "1", "2" and "3"]. The end of the extension appears to be
an "uncapped" steel edge. The structure is otherwise unremarkable, and contains
padding on the front part of the frame, perpendicular to the base, as one faces
the basketball hoop.
On July 10, 1996 Claimant filed a grievance concerning the alleged incident.
[Claimant's Exhibit "7", Inmate Grievance Complaint dated July 10, 1996]. After
a hearing, the grievance committee recommended that the "recreation department
take the necessary steps to insure that this unsafe condition be rectified."
[Claimant's Exhibit "7", Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee Report, dated
July 30, 1998]. The Superintendent's determination, dated August 14, 1996, also
indicates: "the Recreation Dept. Coordinator,...has been contacted concerning
this matter. If extra padding is necessary,...[he] will issue a repair order
and follow-up to see that the repair is made as soon as possible." [Claimant's
Exhibit "7", Inmate Grievance Program (Superintendent), dated August 14,
No other witnesses testified.
Although the State has a duty to protect inmates from foreseeable risks of
harm, it is not the insurer of inmate safety. Its duty is to exercise
"reasonable care under the circumstances..." [
Basso v Miller
, 40 NY2d 233, 241 (1976)], to protect against foreseeable
risks of harm. Assuming that the State did not create the dangerous condition,
a Claimant must show that the State had actual or constructive notice of the
condition and failed to act reasonably to remedy it. Gordon v American
Museum of Natural History
, 67 NY2d 836, 837 (1986). Creation of a dangerous
condition constitutes actual notice. Lewis v Metropolitan Transportation
, 99 AD2d 246, 249 (1st Dept. 1984), affd
64 NY2d 670 (1984).
With respect to constructive notice, any "...defect must be visible or apparent
and it must exist for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to
permit...[a defendant] to discover and remedy it...(citation omitted
Gordon v American Museum of Natural History
Additionally, "...by engaging in a sport or recreational activity, a
participant consents to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in
and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such
Morgan v State of New York
, 90 NY2d 471,484 (1997), including risks due
to "open and obvious defects in the construction of the playing field, as long
as the participant is aware of the risks and appreciates the nature of the
)." Greenburg v Peekskill City School
, 255 AD2d 487, 488 (2d Dept. 1998); See,
, Green v City of New York
, 263 AD2d 385 (1st Dept. 1999);
Cross v State of New York
, Claim No. 95789, UID 2000-013-511(Ct Claims
2000). "‘[A]ssumption of risk is not an absolute defense but a measure of
the defendant's duty of care...." Morgan v State of New York
. at 483, quoting
, Turcotte v Fell
, 68 NY2d
Claimant's allegations of negligence here are twofold. First, he asserts that
a puddle of water caused him to fall while playing basketball in an outdoor
court on A-Block. Second, that having been caused to fall by this puddle of
water, he fell into the unpadded frame which the defendant should have kept in
Claimant has not submitted proof that the defendant had actual or constructive
notice of the alleged puddle of water. Additionally, the condition of the court
itself is one of those apparent features contemplated as inherent risks of
participation in the sport. If one is playing on a court located outside, it
may well be that parts of it will be damp, and possibly slippery. Without more,
there is simply no demonstration by a preponderance of the credible evidence
that this condition was either created by defendant, or one which the defendant
should have been aware of, and taken steps to remedy.
With respect to the basketball frame, Claimant has also failed to establish a
case of liability. Even if the "uncapped" part of the frame
constituted a dangerous condition, there has been no showing that the Defendant
created it, or was aware of it. No evidence was submitted to show how long the
condition had been in existence, or whether the State had an opportunity to
discover and remedy it.
The Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to establish a
case, upon which decision was reserved at the time of trial ,
is hereby granted and Claim number 98582 is dismissed in its
The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.