New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-034, Claim No. 101682


Medical malpractice claim dismissed as claimant did not prove a deviation from accepted standards of care.

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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Lionel Williams
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Carol A. Cocchiola, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 18, 2002
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is the claim of Lionel Williams, in which he complains of medical treatment provided to him at Sullivan Correctional Facility. The claim was tried at Sullivan where Mr. Williams testified on his own behalf. For its part, defendant called nurse Catherine Regan and Dr. Wladyslaw Sidorowicz.

Williams testified that as of January 11, 1999, he was temporarily housed at Sullivan Correctional Facility on his way to a court appearance from Elmira Correctional Facility. He recalled that at 2:55 a.m., he began having difficulty breathing and he and his cellmate called for assistance. Soon thereafter, according to Williams, the entire "B North" population began banging on the walls to attract the attention of a correction officer. Williams maintained that it was not until one hour and fifty minutes later that two officers responded and proceeded to "backlog the log book" to indicate that they had come to do a check earlier when they in fact had not. According to Williams, they are supposed to do a check every hour. However, no log book nor any applicable regulations were introduced into evidence by claimant. Williams said he explained to the officers that he was having an asthma attack, after which he was taken to Sullivan's medical clinic and then to an outside hospital, where he was treated until January 13, 1999, when he was discharged and sent back to Sullivan's infirmary.

Claimant recalled that nurse Sylvia Rueff was on duty when he first returned to the Sullivan infirmary on the 13th, and he claimed that when he requested an inhaler which had been prescribed by the hospital, she ignored him. According to Williams, the nurse was eating and talking to the officers on duty. He said that he asked for his inhaler four times and that when Nurse Rueff "did decide to come in, she came in with an attitude." Williams recollected that he asked the nurse for her name because he intended to "write her up," after which she told claimant to stop threatening her and left with a correction officer. Thereafter, Williams testified, he asked to see a sergeant and was ignored, so he began knocking on the glass. When a sergeant eventually came down, claimant said he explained what had happened, but the officer "[told] another story" in a misbehavior report he prepared, after which claimant was placed in keeplock status for 2 to 3 days. The report apparently accused claimant of shouting and acting in a threatening manner toward the nurse. According to claimant, the misbehavior report was ultimately dismissed after a sergeant who investigated found out about the nurse's "attitude." No documentation as to the misbehavior report or its dismissal were introduced into evidence by claimant.
Williams testified that after he was placed in keeplock status, he was given his inhaler, but made to wait for it. He also said that he was wheezing "real bad" and maintained that he needed a nebulizer treatment but was refused it during the 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. shift and had to wait for the 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift the next morning. He described Nurse Rueff, who was on the earlier shift, as treating him inhumanely, "like it was a . . . drug bust or something . . .," but he described the care provided to him during the 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift as "humane" and "considerate." Finally, claimant testified that on January 14, 1999, he was discharged from the Sullivan infirmary to the block, where he stayed until January 20
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Nurse Catherine Regan testified that she was familiar with claimant and that she recalled him coming back from Harris Community General Hospital to the Sullivan infirmary.[1]
Reviewing Williams' records, Regan noted that after coming to Sullivan, claimant had first had an asthma attack on January 9, 1999 and was brought to the medical clinic at 4:30 a.m. where his lung capacity was tested and he was given a nebulizer treatment. She said that when he came to Sullivan from Elmira, his records did not accompany him; when he was brought to the clinic on January 9, staff called Elmira and a nurse obtained a list of his medications. Forty-five minutes after claimant arrived at the clinic, he said he felt better and was sent back to his cell. Regan testified that the records showed that on January 11, Williams again reported to sick call suffering from an asthma attack and upon a doctor's recommendation, was sent to the local hospital, which admitted him.
Regan recalled that on January 13, claimant returned from the hospital. The discharge paperwork from the hospital contained the recommendation of two inhalers as well as an oral asthma medication. As to the inhalers, Regan explained that they are not provided on demand, but rather are prescribed every four hours. She added that if a person is having a severe asthma attack, a nebulizer treatment is more effective and was available in the facility. Regan said that Williams repeatedly asked for the inhalers prior to the times at which they were prescribed. As to the oral medication (Slobid), Regan testified that claimant repeatedly refused to take the pills, and in fact spit them out. Claimant interjected that he would not take the Slobid because at some earlier time, doctors at another correctional facility had taken him off it because it did not work for him. Regan testified that she did not recall claimant telling her why he would not take the Slobid. In any event, no documentation was submitted on this point.
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Dr. Sidorowicz confirmed Regan's testimony, adding that on January 14, 1999, he saw claimant, reviewed his records and determined that he was ready for discharge from the infirmary. He also testified that there was no deviation from accepted standards of medical care. Williams offered no expert testimony that accepted standards of medical care were not met. Such expert testimony would be required for him to prevail. See, e.g.,
Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516, 675 NYS2d 375 (2d Dept 1998), lv denied 92 NY2d 814, 681 NYS2d 475 (1998).
For the foregoing reasons, claim no. 101682 is dismissed.

April 18, 2002
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

  1. [1]Regan explained that at the time, she used the last name Lenin-Watson or "L-Watson," which is contained in claimant's medical records for January 13, 14 and 16 (see defendant's exhibit A). Claimant initially seemed to dispute that Regan had treated him, although he later appeared to recall dealing with her.