Steven Medina, the Claimant herein, alleges that while incarcerated at Sing
Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing), on August 17, 1997 at
approximately 7:00 pm he was assaulted by a fellow inmate due to the State's
negligence. Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on August 14,
Claimant relied upon the factual allegations contained in his claim, as well as
his own testimony at trial. He testified that he had been playing handball on
the A-Block recreational yard when a fight broke out between other inmates in
the area, involving the use of weapons. The fight spilled over to the handball
courts. Somebody stabbed him in the left side of his chest with a "seven inch
piece of sharpened steel. One correction officer came and tried to grab the
from Claimant's attacker, and it was "thrown out of the yard." This was the only
correction officer on duty in the yard.
Claimant stated his injuries "required open heart surgery" since the weapon
"pierced" his heart and "hit an artery, causing internal bleeding."
Although he did not name the particular inmate at trial, Claimant stated that
an individual involved in the fight - though not specifically the inmate who
stabbed him - had been involved in "three prior incidents" as the victim of an
assault. This individual had been "released from ‘cell confinement' a
mere fourteen (14) days prior to the assault on Claimant." [Claim Number 97932;
Page 3, Paragraph 3].
Claimant testified that no one was searched on the way to the yard. The inmate
who he felt precipitated the assaultive conduct by his presence in the general
population was able to come on the yard with the protective gear of a hooded
sweater stuffed with magazines. Those who had weapons were not deterred either
because of the failure to search.
Claimant asserted that "three officers" were "assigned" to the A-Block yard "to
supervise in excess of... 300 inmates." [Claim number 97932, Page 2, Paragraph
2].They "were not positioned in strategic areas throughout the yard, nor were
they in a continuous observation motion." [
.] These staffing limitations, Claimant alleged, are common
knowledge, and thus no deterrent to illicit activity. Stationary guard
stations have no "clear and direct view" of the hand ball courts.
No other witnesses testified.
While the State must provide inmates with reasonable protection against
foreseeable risks of attack by other inmates, [
Blake v State of New York
, 259 AD2d 878 (3d Dept. 1999); Sebastiano v
State of New York
, 112 AD2d 562 (3d Dept. 1985)], the State is not the
insurer of the safety of inmates, and the fact that an assault occurs does not
give rise to the inference of negligence (Sebastiano v State of New York
). In order to establish liability on the State's part, an
inmate claimant must allege and prove one of the following grounds: (1) the
victim was a known risk and the State failed to provide reasonable protection
, Sebastiano v State of New York
.); (2) the State had notice that the assailant was dangerous
and refused to take the proper precautions [See
, Littlejohn v
State of New York
, 218 AD2d 833 (3d Dept. 1995); Wilson v State of New
, 36 AD2d 559 (3d Dept. 1971)]; or (3) the State had notice and the
opportunity to intervene to protect the inmate victim and failed to act.
Smith v State of New York
, ___AD2d___, 728 NYS2d 530 (3d Dept. 2001).
The mere fact that a correction officer is not present at the precise time and
place of an assault does not give rise to an inference of negligence absent a
showing that officials had notice of a foreseeable dangerous situation. Colon
v State of New York
, 209 AD2d 842 (3d Dept. 1994); Padgett v State of New
, 163 AD2d 914 (4th Dept. 1990), lv. denied,
76 NY2d 711
In this case, Claimant has testified that an unknown fellow inmate almost
gratuitously stabbed him while in the throes of a collective assault against a
different "victim/inmate." The inmate being assaulted had been returned to the
general population some fourteen days previously, and served as a catalyst,
Claimant asserted, to the assaultive conduct. Claimant did not offer any
evidence, other than his own opinion testimony, that this inmate's presence
created an "especially dangerous situation," resulting in a foreseeable risk of
harm to the Claimant.
Padgett v State of New York
, at 915 . There was no
indication that Claimant himself was a target, or that he had ever expressed
unease at the inclusion of the "victim/inmate" in general population. When the
assault began, the Claimant's own testimony establishes that the available
correction officer responded appropriately.
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 97932 is hereby dismissed in its
The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.