New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2001-030-567, Claim No. 101024


Inmates claim of medical malpractice, negligence and ministerial neglect is dismissed for failure to prove a prima facie case. No medical testimony presented

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:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 21, 2001
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Timothy Williams, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 101024 that he had been denied reasonable and adequate medical care throughout his incarceration. Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing) on December 7, 2001.

Claimant testified that as a result of a prison disturbance in 1983, he suffered injuries to his back, right ankle, and hip. He claims the Defendant's agents demonstrated indifference to his medical needs in failing to treat him immediately, and in failure to order x-rays, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test (MRI) and other diagnostic tools and ameliorative care. He stated "I just can walk....some mornings I can't move at all."[1]
He testified that "...a day or two..." after the original injury in 1983, he saw a doctor, and was given "ice for his ankle and ...[his] back...and some pain pills..." About a month later he got x-rays.
According to the exhibits Claimant submitted in evidence, he has complained of chronic pain in his back for a long time, and has been seen by medical personnel with some regularity, and received medication of various kinds for pain. [Claimant's Exhibits "1", "2" and "3"]. Although he denied it during his testimony, the documentation also seems to indicate that there was some level of non-compliance with recommended physical therapy. According to a letter to the Claimant from the Regional Medical Director, dated July 14, 2000, the various tests "...did not disclose any neurologic changes and the orthopedic consultant noted that you had no focal neurologic signs. The consultant also noted in his report that you had not been compliant with the exercise program arranged for your performance at the facility. His final conclusion was that there was no indication for surgery....There are no other avenues open to you at this time. I recommend you continue to bring your problems to the medical staff and try to be compliant with their recommendations." [Claimant's Exhibit "2"]. More recent correspondence to Claimant from New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) personnel again urges cooperation. [Claimant's Exhibit "2", Letter from Deputy Commissioner dated June 2, 2001]. Other than physical therapy and medication for pain, there does not seem to be an indication of any further course of treatment, including surgery. It does appear, however, that the Claimant has attempted repeatedly to get more treatment.

No other witnesses testified.

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...injuries' (
Parker v State of New York , 242 AD2d 785, 786...)." Auger v State of New York, 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 Med. 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 in support of any claim of malpractice. 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. There is no medical evidence on any medical issue and thus no proof that accepted standards of care were not met. Accordingly, the claim of medical malpractice must be dismissed.

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- Cornell Med. Center, 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 Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to establish a
prima facie case, upon which decision was reserved at the time of trial, is hereby granted, and Claim Number 101024 is dismissed in its entirety.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

December 21, 2001
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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