Claimant, an inmate, alleges that while incarcerated at Orleans Correctional
Facility (Orleans), and recuperating from a broken arm in the prison infirmary,
a Dr. Brij Sinha, an employee of the Department of Correctional Services
(DOCS), negligently performed a physical examination and, as a result, rebroke
his right arm and that following that examination, he was released from the
infirmary prematurely. This medical malpractice action resulted.
Claimant broke his arm on July 29, 1997, while incarcerated at Orleans. The
proof presented at trial established that he was taken to the nearest hospital,
located in Medina, New York, where his injury was diagnosed as a comminuted
fracture of the distal third of the humerus of his right arm (Exhibit 3).
According to Claimant, his arm was placed in a sling because of the swelling,
and he was returned to the infirmary at Orleans pending x-rays and further
treatment once the swelling reduced. On August 5, 1997, he was transported to
the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) for further evaluation. The record of
that visit (Exhibit 1) confirms the original diagnosis and appears to indicate
that the arm had been placed in a fracture brace and then in a sling. Claimant
testified that x-rays taken at that time indicated that healing had begun.
Subsequently, Claimant testified that on August 7 or 8, while he was asleep in
his bed in the infirmary, Dr. Sinha came to his bed, removed his right arm,
which was in the fracture brace, from the sling and began handling the braced
arm in a rough manner. This caused Claimant great pain, awakening him from his
sleep. As soon as he realized what was happening, and before he could protest,
Claimant heard an unusual sound in his right arm and experienced even greater
pain. In his opinion, this was a refracture of the arm. He informed the Doctor
that the arm had been refractured, but received no response and the examination
continued. The examination took approximately ten minutes, and after it was
completed, the doctor left the area, requiring Claimant to return his arm to the
Following that examination, Claimant's medication was changed, and he was moved
from the infirmary to a ward. On August 15 another set of x-rays was taken and
read by Dr. C.J. Riggio, who generated a report dated September 15, 1997
(Exhibit 2). Additional x-rays were taken on September 22, 1997, which resulted
in another report by Dr. Riggio dated October 10, 1997 (Exhibit 3). Claimant
was released back into general population sometime in September and continued to
be seen by the medical staff at ECMC approximately every two weeks. He stated
that while he received no physical therapy for his arm, he was told to move his
hand up the wall until his arm was fully extended and also directions using
lateral rotation to increase the range of motion in his shoulder.
After his release from the infirmary, Claimant filed a grievance contending
that he should not have been released because, in his opinion, his arm had not
healed sufficiently and his release was not in accord with good medical care.
The institutional claim was denied and he then filed the subject claim,
asserting that his early release was a further act of malpractice.
After limited cross-examination of Claimant, the State moved to dismiss the
claim on the basis that Claimant had failed to prove a prima facie case of
medical malpractice, as there was no expert testimony setting forth the standard
of care required in the treatment for Claimant's injury and establishing whether
the treatment received met that standard. The Court, having reserved on that
motion at trial, now grants it and dismisses the claim for the reasons set forth
In a medical malpractice action, the Claimant has the burden of proving that
the doctor failed to use his best judgment and/or failed to use reasonable care
in the exercise of his medical knowledge and skill. Indeed, to be successful,
Claimant must show the relevant accepted medical standards of care, together
with a deviation or departure from those standards (
Kletnieks v Brookhaven Mem. Assn
, 53 AD2d 169, 176). The standards of
care alleged to have been violated must be those of the State's correctional
facilities on a state-wide basis, not a facility-to-facility basis. Further,
the rule of reasonable care does not require the exercise of the highest
possible degree of care, but rather requires only that the doctor exercise that
degree of care that a reasonably prudent doctor would exercise under the same
circumstances (Schrempf v State of New York
, 66 NY2d
In the instant claim, there is absolutely no proof as to what the standard of
care Defendant allegedly breached. In fact, the records relied upon by Claimant
fail to support his testimony or the allegations in his claim.
He alleged and testified that the first x-rays taken at ECMC, on August 5,
indicated that calcium had started to form at the break site and that doctors
informed him that his arm was aligned properly. The proof before me, however,
establishes that no new x-rays were taken at ECMC on that occasion, that the
medical staff merely reviewed those that had been taken at the Medina hospital.
Since those were taken on the day of the fall, they could show only the
alignment of the bone and would contain no evidence of calcium buildup at the
site of the fracture. I cannot, therefore, credit Claimant's testimony as to
that conversation with ECMC doctors.
In addition, I find that there is no support in the medical record for
Claimant's allegation that Dr. Sinha refractured his arm during the examination
that took place on August 7 or 8. The record, as well as the testimony of Dr.
Sinha, leads me to conclude that on the date this incident is alleged to have
occurred, Dr. Sinha did not see the Claimant. Moreover, there is no medical
evidence before me that indicates that the arm was ever rebroken. In fact, the
x-rays taken at the time of Claimant's visit to ECMC in September demonstrate
that the fracture was healing normally, something that would not have been
apparent had there been a second fracture some nine or ten days after the
original injury. Finally, Claimant failed to produce any evidence from which
I could conclude that his release from the infirmary was
The Defendant's motion made at the close of Claimant's testimony, and renewed
at the conclusion of its proof, is hereby granted and the claim is
All other motions not heretofore ruled upon are now denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.