New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BONILLA v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-011-107, Claim No. 102568


Claimant is awarded judgment for past pain and suffering as a result of an assault by two other inmates.

Case Information

ALFREDO BONILLA The court sua sponte amends the caption to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The court sua sponte amends the caption to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Alfredo Bonilla, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Dennis M. Acton, Esq.,Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 17, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

On February 22, 2000 claimant was assaulted by two other inmates in his room at the Clinton Correctional Facility Annex.

The State has a duty to use reasonable care to protect its inmates from foreseeable risks of harm, including risks of attack by fellow prisoners (
Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842).
On February 16, 2000 claimant, who was then housed in the main section of Clinton Correctional Facility, was told by a correction officer to pack his property because he was being moved to the Annex. Claimant refused. An inmate misbehavior report was written and claimant was placed on keeplock status. A superintendent's hearing was conducted on February 22, 2002 by Deputy Superintendent for Administration Knapp. At the hearing claimant pleaded guilty to both charges and offered an explanation for his conduct. He told DSA Knapp that when he first arrived at Clinton Correctional Facility the previous October he learned that an inmate he previously had problems with at Riker's Island was housed at Clinton. He later heard that the other inmate had been transferred to the Annex. Claimant told DSA Knapp that his refusal to move was an attempt to avoid having a problem with the other inmate and that he had written a letter about the problem to the Superintendent on Friday[1]
. Claimant indicated that he felt that he would be in jeopardy if he moved to the Annex because the other inmate would retaliate against him but he also said that if told again to pack up to move he would.
DSA Knapp found claimant guilty of both charges and imposed a penalty of six days keeplock. In rendering his disposition he advised claimant that his reason for only imposing a penalty of time served was claimant's statement that he would move if told to pack up. He also informed claimant that he would be moved that day or the next. Claimant was moved that day and an hour and a half after doing so, he was attacked in his room by two inmates he did not know. On the day claimant was assaulted, the Superintendent sent a memo to claimant advising him that his letter was being referred to the Deputy Superintendent for Security for review and response.

Though the State is not an insurer of inmate safety (
Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833, 834), liability may be imposed where the victim was known to be at risk and the State nonetheless failed to take reasonable steps to protect him or her, or the State had both notice and the opportunity to intervene for the purpose of protecting the inmate victim but failed to do so (Smith v State of New York, 284 AD2d 741).
Here, defendant was made aware of the risk to claimant's safety by means of a letter to the Superintendent as well as an oral statement to a Deputy Superintendent. In addition, claimant made clear that he viewed the threat seriously by refusing to move and thereby risking severe disciplinary sanctions including confinement to the special housing unit and loss of good time (see 7 NYCRR §254.7).

Recognizing the important competing interest of maintaining order by ensuring adherence to the rules and compliance with the orders of correction officials, the rush to move claimant before investigating a known risk of harm exposed the defendant to liability for foreseeable attacks upon him. Though there is no direct proof that the assault on claimant was orchestrated by his enemy, the circumstantial evidence is sufficiently strong to permit the inference that the risk which claimant reported, retaliation by the other inmate, became reality almost immediately after he was moved (see,
Bernstein v City of New York, 69 NY2d 1020). Accordingly, defendant is liable for the injuries claimant suffered in the attack.
The inmate injury report made following the assault shows that claimant suffered a small puncture wound to his back, a chipped tooth and cuts and abrasions. Claimant was treated without being admitted to the facility infirmary or taken to an outside hospital. Other than the chipped tooth, there is no indication that the injuries did not heal in a normal fashion or that they continue to cause any problem for claimant. Accordingly, he is awarded $750.00 for his past pain and suffering, and it is

ORDERED that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act section 11-a(2), and it is
ORDERED that judgment be entered accordingly.

June 17, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]February 22, 2000, the day of the hearing, was a Tuesday.