New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HALL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-015-559, Claim No. 101388


Claimant failed to produce medical expert to testify that DOCS withholding of prescribed medication caused or exacerbated symptoms of which the pro se inmate claimant complained.

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:
Horace Hall, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: G. Lawrence Dillon, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 19, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Trial of the instant claim occurred at a term of Court held at Marcy Correctional Facility on May 14, 2002.

The claim filed on November 9, 1999 seeks to recover $100,000.00 in damages for injuries allegedly sustained by claimant on September 24, 1999 when Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) medical personnel refused to provide him with an injection of Neupogen, a drug prescribed to treat claimant's blood sugar disorder. It is alleged that Nurse McNamara failed to consult with a facility doctor prior to her refusal to administer claimant's medication. Claimant alleges that Nurse McNamara's refusal to administer the drug without prior consultation with a physician violated DOCS rules and regulations and resulted in claimant suffering skeletal pain, fatigue, pre-sensitivity reactions and constipation.

At trial claimant testified that he was required to take twice weekly injections of a prescription drug (Neupogen) for the treatment of a blood sugar disorder. The injections were administered by DOCS medical personnel. On September 24, 1999 at 4:25 p.m. claimant reported to the Marcy Correctional Facility infirmary but was denied an injection on the ground that he was too late. He alleged that as a result of the refusal he suffered weakness, pain and nausea.

The witness testified that he filed a grievance alleging in part that Nurse McNamara had acted in violation of DOCS rules and regulations which he argued prohibited medical personnel from refusing to administer prescribed medication without first consulting a physician.

The Court's records include photocopies of the grievance and its history which were attached to the filed claim. Those documents reveal that the Marcy Correctional Facility's Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (IGRC) was deadlocked with regard to claimant's grievance and passed through the decision to the facility superintendent. On October 18, 1999 Superintendent Filion denied the grievance and advised claimant to address his medical concerns to the Medical Department. The instant claim was filed in the Court of Claims on November 9, 1999.

At the conclusion of his testimony the Court inquired whether claimant intended to offer any additional evidence in support of his claim, claimant responded in the negative.

At trial defense counsel did not cross-examine the claimant but instead moved to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the claim sounds in medical malpractice and that proof of such claim must include evidence in admissible form from a qualified medical expert. The Court denied the defendant's motion. Defense counsel thereafter moved to dismiss the claim on the ground that claimant had failed to comply with an order of this Court dated October 11, 2000 in which claimant was directed to serve responses to defendant's discovery demands. This motion was likewise denied. Following the motions claimant rested and defense counsel, without calling any witnesses, moved to dismiss the claim due to claimant's failure to prove a prima facie case. The Court reserved decision on that motion.

To maintain an action for injuries sustained while under the care and control of a medical practitioner, a claimant may proceed upon a simple negligence theory or upon the more particularized theory of medical malpractice (
Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025, lv denied 40 NY2d 804). In cases founded upon simple negligence the State's allegedly negligent act or omission must be readily determinable by the finder of fact using common knowledge without the necessity of expert testimony (Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Ctr., 114 AD2d 254, 256). The State may be found liable for ministerial neglect where its employees fail to comply with an institution's own administrative procedures and protocols governing the provision of medical care to inmates (Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7).
Here, although the Court afforded claimant an opportunity to support his claim by identifying the rule, regulation or protocol alleged to have been violated by Nurse McNamara claimant failed to do so. Nor was any such rule, regulation or protocol specified in claimant's administrative grievance referred to above.

In the absence of proof of ministerial neglect, the issue of whether and to what extent the State's withholding of the prescribed medication contributed to or caused the symptoms of which claimant complained is not a matter of common knowledge which the Court can decide without the benefit of expert testimony (
Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653, lv denied 91 NY2d 810; Armstrong v State of New York, 214 AD2d 812, lv denied 86 NY2d 702). Therefore, the claim must be viewed as one sounding in medical malpractice and it was claimant's burden to present expert testimony demonstrating that the withholding of the medication was a substantial factor in causing or exacerbating the symptoms of which he complained (Kennedy v Peninsula Hosp. Center, 135 AD2d 788; Koster v Greenberg, 120 AD2d 644). Claimant failed to meet that burden and as a result the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim for failure to prove a prima facie case made at the conclusion of claimant's proof must be granted.
The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly dismissing the claim.

August 19, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York
Judge of the Court of Claims