New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CRAWFORD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-009-104, Claim No. 92395


Claimant brought this claim seeking damages for personal injuries suffered by him when he slipped and fell in the shower area of his housing unit at Watertown Correctional Facility. The Court dismissed the claim, finding that claimant did not establish the existence of a dangerous condition, or that the State had any actual or constructive notice of such condition.

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:
Attorney General
BY: Heather R. Rubinstein, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 8, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In this claim, claimant seeks damages for injuries he sustained on August 24, 1994, while an inmate at Watertown Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Watertown"). Claimant alleges that the State was negligent in allowing a puddle of water to accumulate on the floor of the shower area in his housing unit, thereby creating a dangerous condition which led to the personal injuries suffered by him.

Prior to a consideration of the trial testimony, the Court must first determine a procedural issue raised by claimant. At the conclusion of this trial, the Court had given the parties an opportunity to submit post-trial memoranda to support the legal theories advanced at trial. Claimant requested, and received, an extension of time in which to prepare and submit a reply memorandum, in response to the post-trial memorandum submitted by defendant. In his "Reply" Memorandum, claimant had made a request that the Court dismiss the post-trial brief submitted by defendant, on the basis that numerous cases cited in that brief were either unreported or inapplicable to the facts of this claim.

In its deliberations, however, the Court can best decide how much weight, if any, should be given to any legal position espoused by either party, as well as whether the various cases cited, are relevant to the issues at hand. Claimant's request to dismiss the defendant's post-trial brief is therefore denied.

At trial, claimant testified that while entering the shower area of the I-1 Block at Watertown on August 24, 1994, he slipped on a puddle of water and fell. As a result of this slip and fall, claimant testified that he was knocked unconscious, and that he continues to suffer from chronic headaches, as well as the loss of full use of his left arm and left leg.

Correction Officer Scott Hansen, Fire and Safety Officer at Watertown, was the only other witness to testify at this trial. He testified that he conducted an inspection following the accident, and did not discover any accumulation of water in the area. Furthermore, he testified that in his capacity as Fire and Safety Officer, he had not received any complaints relating to the condition of the bathroom area of the I-1 Block prior to claimant's accident. The Inmate Accident Log for the period May 16, 1994 through November 30, 1994 was introduced and received into evidence (Defendant's Exhibit B), which indicated that the only slip and fall in the I-1 Block area during this period was claimant's incident on August 24, 1994.

As a landowner, the State has a duty to act as a reasonable person would to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition (
Preston v State of New York, 59 NY2d 997; Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233). This obligation extends to defendant's correctional facilities (see, Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910). The State therefore owes the inmates within its correctional facilities a duty of due care to prevent injuries from foreseeable risks (Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495). The State, however, is not an insurer of inmate safety (Hirsch v State of New York, 8 NY2d 125), and negligence may not be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (Tripoli v State of New York, 72 AD2d 823; Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719).
In order for a claimant to succeed in a negligence action such as this, he must establish the existence of a foreseeably dangerous condition; that the State created the condition or had either actual or constructive notice of it; that the State failed to remedy the condition within a reasonable time; that such condition was the proximate cause of claimant's accident; and that the claimant sustained damages.

Based upon the testimony and evidence submitted at trial, the Court finds that claimant has failed to establish the existence of a dangerous condition, or that the State had actual or constructive notice of that condition. Claimant offered no evidence to support his statement at trial that the State was aware of the dangerous condition in the shower area and that it failed to remedy the situation. To the contrary, the Inmate Accident Log (Defendant's Exhibit B) shows no similar incidents within the three months prior to, or in the three months after, the incident in question. Additionally, Fire and Safety Officer Hansen testified that there was not a significant amount of water in the area. The presence of some water on the floor in the shower area, in and of itself, is not sufficient to establish negligence on the part of the defendant.

The Court therefore finds that the defendant did not breach its duty of care to claimant.

For these reasons, Claim No. 92395 must be DISMISSED.

All motions not heretofore ruled upon are hereby denied.


October 8, 2002
Syracuse, New York
Judge of the Court of Claims