New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SANTIAGO v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-005-526, Claim No. 101146, Motion No. M-64747


Defendant's motion for an order of preclusion and for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

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:
Carlos Santiago,Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Heather R. Rubinstein, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 19, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


On March 13, 2002, the following papers, numbered 1 to 4, were read on motion by Defendant for an order of preclusion and for summary judgment:

1, 2 Notice of Motion, Affirmation and Exhibits Annexed
  1. Opposing papers
3, 4 Filed Papers: Claim, Answer

Upon the foregoing papers, this motion is denied in part and granted in part.

In this motion, the Defendant seeks an order of preclusion and then summary judgment. The claim herein alleges a cause of action alleging denial of proper medical attention at Auburn Correctional Facility (Auburn) for an eye injury sustained at Willard Drug Treatment Center. In sum the claim alleges injuries sustained for the "failure [of Defendant' employees] to provide claimant proper medical attention since 12-27-98 till June 1st 1999. . ." This claim can be characterized as sounding in medical neglect and or medical malpractice.

In response to Defendant's demand on or about January 31, 2002, Claimant indicated in his response dated February 6, 2002 that he did not intend to summon any expert witnesses concerning this claim. Defendant thus wishes an order of preclusion precluding any expert testimony at the trial herein scheduled for April 30, 2002, at Auburn Correctional Facility, that is the subject of the Defendant's demand therefor. Claimant will be limited to the expert witness disclosure that he provided to Defendant, and will not be permitted at trial to present any expert testimony that was the subject of Defendant's demand, and to that extent, the motion is granted.

Defendant next urges that given such limitations that it is entitled to summary judgment dismissing the claim because Claimant is precluded from offering any expert testimony in support of his claim. Claimant has defaulted on this motion, served upon him by mail on February 15, 2002. Regardless of his default, a question for me is whether expert testimony would be necessary to prove the allegations, inasmuch as not every such claim requires expert proof. If the alleged negligent omissions or commissions by State caregivers can be readily determined by the fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity of expert testimony, then summary judgment should not lie. However, this theory is limited to "those cases where the alleged negligent act may be readily determined by the trier of the facts based on common knowledge" (Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, 114 AD2d 254, 256). Such cases have involved scalding a patient with a hot water bottle (Phillips v Buffalo General Hospital, 239 NY 188), leaving an electric light bulb under the sheets (Dillon v Rockaway Beach Hospital, 284 NY 176), leaving a postoperative patient unattended in a bathroom (Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, supra), and other similar circumstances. Similarly, the Defendant 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).

In the instant claim, allowing for Claimant's pro se status and his use of terminology that alleges failure to provide "proper medical attention," I decline to find, as a matter of law before trial, or determine that whatever evidence Claimant may produce will be insufficient. I note that in Landmesser v State of New York,[1] Claim No. 101046, Scuccimarra, J., a similar claim was dismissed on the merits, as there was no medical evidence on any medical issue, and no indication that the actions of medical care givers amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect. Similarly, there was no showing that any delay in procuring the bifocal lenses the Claimant preferred to those offered by the State caused him any actual harm, finding that any delay was simply not actionable there. But the Landmesser findings were made after trial, and I decline to grant summary judgment without giving Claimant the opportunity to present proof, albeit without any expert medical testimony, at trial. It may well be that without expert testimony, Claimant may not be able to show any damages, but such a finding should abide the trial. That part of the motion seeking summary judgment is denied.

March 19, 2002
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] See UID Number 2002-030-001 at the Court of Claims website