New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MOODY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-018, Claim No. 85537


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:
Davoli & VesnaverBy: Garth Molander, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Grace A. Brannigan, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 14, 2002
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This decision follows the trial of the claim of Harold Moody. At the time of the incident in question, July 29, 1990, Mr. Moody was incarcerated in Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island. The case was tried at Sing Sing.

Mr. Moody testified that he slipped on an accumulation of water near the facility's swimming pool and fell down the stairs. The athletic facilities at Arthur Kill were on two levels. A weight room and a TV room were on the first floor; upstairs was a swimming pool and basketball court. The pool is located beyond a set of double doors at the top of a staircase. There were also showers on that upper level.

Claimant stated that at 2 o'clock in the afternoon he headed over to the gymnasium and went up the stairs. Moody was wearing sneakers. He noticed that the "top of the landing was very wet ... [and] a lot [of water was] coming down the stairs."
He was with three other inmates; they went over to the officer on duty, and at least Moody complained to the officer about the water condition. Moody recalls that the officer "yelled to the inmate across the gym, one of his porters and he made this one go over and get the water up."
Claimant did not wait around to see if the inmate-porter began to clean up, but went into what he called the gym. Claimant recalled that a full-court basketball game was in progress, so he watched it and did some pushups. By Moody's own admission, he was inside the gym for an hour, until 3 p.m.
Picking up the narrative, as he left the basketball game:
I was walking at a normal pace back down towards the stair landing and before I could grab the bannister, my feet slipped from underneath me and I fell down the stairs...I hit the top of the stairs, my whole upper back...and...roll[ed] downwards, down the stairs.
A stretcher was brought to carry claimant to the clinic.
Moody conceded that when he left the pool/basketball court area, "I wasn't looking down at the water..." He explained that he assumed the water had been mopped up inasmuch as he heard the officer directing the porter to do so. He also indicated that he had not gone out on the landing or toward the stairs the entire hour he was inside the second floor facilities. ***
In order to prevail on a slip and fall on a wet floor, a claimant must show that the defendant created, or had notice – actual or constructive – of the condition which caused the accident. See,
Bernard v Waldbaum, Inc., 232 AD2d 596, 648 NYS2d 700 (2d Dept 1996). In any event, an individual cannot complain of a condition that "can be readily observed by a reasonable use of one's senses." Zaffiris v O'Loughlin, 184 AD2d 696, 585 NYS2d 94, 95 (2d Dept 1992). Here, Moody had just seen the water running down the stairs and did not look down to see the condition of the floor. Even were it reasonable to conclude that the inmate-porters would mop up the area, why assume that an area close to a pool and to showers could not become wet in an hour's time.
Thus, even accepting Moody's statements as fact does not get him beyond the "open and obvious" hurdle to proving liability. While it may thus be unnecessary to determine whether defendant had notice of the condition of the floor, it is not inappropriate to discuss the evidence in general.

Moody is not credible on what happened. In the incident report, claimant never mentions water; his signed statement in its entirety reads: "I fell down a whole flight of steps. My legs gave way. I hit my head, I have a headache" (def exh A). In his trial testimony, claimant insisted he complained about the water every day, but in his deposition stated that he never made any complaints to anybody before the accident "about any condition that may cause you to slip or fall."
Nor was there any evidence of prior complaints by other persons.
Granted, eleven years passed between the accident and the trial, but at no time did Moody have the name of the officer he said he spoke to, nor of any witnesses in this busy area that was the only entrance to the pool and basketball court. Claimant did not at any time know the name of a fellow inmate whom he contends traded his own dry shirt for Moody's wet shirt, and claimant asserts the other inmate's shirt did not bear a name or DIN number. Also not believable was claimant's statement that while inside the gym for an hour, he heard "other people arguing about that water, ‘it's wet up on that landing.' "

Finally, Moody's reference to forty steps in the following exchange seems well removed from reality:
Q. Where did you end up landing when you finally came to rest?

A. On the bottom of the steps.

Q. And how many steps, approximately, were there?

A. A little more than forty.

THE COURT: How many?

THE WITNESS: A little more than forty.


THE WITNESS: That's a lot.

In view of the foregoing, Harold Moody has failed to prove defendant's negligence by a

fair preponderance of credible evidence, and his claim (no. 85537) is dismissed.


February 14, 2002
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims