New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FERNANDO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-010-031, Claim No. 103782


Inmate claimant was injured when a piece of metal flew off a hydraulic power metal punch machine in the welding shop at Sing Sing. The Court found that the safety guard was in place and that the instructions and supervision provided by defendant were adequate under the circumstances 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):

Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 1, 2002
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant seeks damages for injuries he allegedly sustained on January 4, 2001 during his incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing Sing). Claimant was in a vocational welding shop class using a hydraulic power metal punch machine, when a piece of the machine flew off and hit him in the face. Claimant maintains that the safety guard was not in place. This claim was heard in a unified trial.
laimant testified that he was never trained in welding. However, two forms, bearing his signature, indicated that claimant had been trained and instructed on the safe operation of the machinery (Exs, A, B). The forms were dated September 19, 2000 and October 5, 2000. Prior to the accident, claimant had attended the class and had used the machinery six or seven times without incident.
Correction Officer Herbert King testified that he has more than 20 years experience in welding and that he has been responsible for vocational training in welding at Sing Sing for six years. On the date of
claimant's accident, King was teaching the students how to repair machinery. According to King, the safety guard was in place and prior to the inmates' use of the machine, there were no visible cracks on the equipment. Rather, as claimant was using the machine, a metal piece of the equipment unexpectedly broke and "popped out,"[1] hitting claimant in the face.
It is well settled that when the State, through its correctional authorities, directs an inmate to participate in a work program during incarceration, it owes the inmate a duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace with reasonably safe equipment with which to work and adequate warnings and instructions for the safe operation of such equipment (see Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910, 913; Callahan v State of New York, 19 AD2d 437 affd 14 NY2d 665). The State also has a duty to apprise the inmate of any dangers known to it that the inmate could not reasonably be expected to discover himself (see Fitzgerald v State of New York, 28 Misc 2d 283 at 285). The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of its premises and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (see Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850, 851; Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874). Also, where an inmate fails to use ordinary care and pursues a dangerous course of conduct, the inmate is required to take some responsibility for his own negligence (see Martinez v State of New York, 225 AD2d 877; Carter v State of New York, 194 AD2d 967; Hicks v State of New York, 124 AD2d 949).
Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that
the credible evidence establishes that the safety guard was in place and that the instructions and supervision provided by defendant were adequate under the circumstances presented (see Martinez v State of New York, supra [State not liable in light of inmate's experience and training]; Rosado v State of New York, 139 AD2d 851 [State's duty is to provide care commensurate with claimant's capacity to provide for his own safety]). Unremitting supervision is not required (Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842; Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914). The evidence further established that the malfunction of the machine was unexpected and not something that defendant could have or should have been aware of or could have otherwise guarded against. Thus, defendant was not negligent and there is no basis for holding defendant responsible for claimant's unfortunate accident.

August 1, 2002
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] All quotations are to the trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.