New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-013-504, Claim No. 98585


Synopsis


The State cannot be held liable for any medical malpractice committed in connection with treatment of a prison inmate when the treatment is provided outside of a State correctional facility by a physician who is not a State employee.

Case Information

UID:
2002-013-504
Claimant(s):
DAVID WILLIAMS
Claimant short name:
WILLIAMS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
98585
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
PHILIP J. PATTI
Claimant's attorney:
DAVID WILLIAMS, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General of the State of New York
BY: RICHARD B. FRIEDFERTIG, ESQ.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 7, 2002
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision


This claim allegedly arose in January 1992, while Claimant was an inmate at Wende Correctional Facility. At that time, Claimant, who had suffered from problems with his right knee for several years, was sent to Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), where arthroscopic surgery was performed by a Dr. Stegemann. Claimant continued to suffer pain and limitation in that knee but was told by Dr. Stegemann that nothing more could be done. In August 1996, however, a second surgery, which was performed at Albany Medical Center, relieved the pain.

In his ECMC Operative Report (Exhibit A), Dr. Stegemann's note indicates that the surgery performed was exploratory and that the knee was normal. This conclusion contrasted an earlier diagnosis of a posterior tear, made on the basis of x-rays that had been taken in 1991 when Claimant was incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility. Claimant testified that Dr. Stegemann told him his only problem was mild arthritis. In October 1995, an MRI confirmed the 1991 finding that there was a complex tear in Claimant's right knee, and a successful operation was performed, as noted, in 1996. On cross-examination, Claimant acknowledged that he was seen by a number of doctors, and had a number of diagnostic tests -- including an arthrogram -- performed during 1990, 1991, and 1992.

At the close of Claimant's case, Defendant moved for dismissal on the ground that the claim lies outside the jurisdiction of this Court. The only allegations of malpractice relate to the actions and statements of Dr. Stegemann, who treated Claimant only at ECMC. Dr. Stegemann is not an employee of the State
, and ECMC is, as its name indicates, a County facility. It has been established that when a prison inmate is referred to an outside physician who, acting as an independent contractor, provides treatment only at outside facilities not owned and operated by the State, any malpractice that occurs in connection with such treatment does not give rise to a claim against the State (Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, lv denied 76 NY2d 701; Williams v State of New York, 164 Misc 2d 783; compare, Soltis v State of New York, 172 AD2d 919 [private practitioner examined and treated inmates inside the correctional facility]).
There is no testimony or evidence that even suggests that Dr. Stegemann was a State employee or that he treated Claimant at any location other than at ECMC. On that ground, I must dismiss the claim.

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 dismissed.

All other motions heretofore ruled upon are now denied.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.


February 7, 2002
Rochester, New York

HON. PHILIP J. PATTI
Judge of the Court of Claims