New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SANTIAGO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-016-060, Claim No. 102096


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:
Jose Santiago
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: James E. Shoemaker, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 17, 2002
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is the claim of Jose Santiago, which was tried at Sullivan Correctional Facility, where Mr. Santiago testified on his own behalf. For its part, defendant called correction officer Kenneth Decker, food administrator Bruce Garritt, and nurse Lola Romano. Santiago's claim arises from an incident in which he was cut with a knife while working in the Sullivan butcher shop.

Claimant testified that on January 29, 2000, he was working in Sullivan's butcher shop when he cut his right index finger with a boning knife. According to Santiago, at some point prior to his accident, the deputy superintendent of security had implemented a policy whereby cables were used to attach the knives used by the inmate butchers to the legs of the tables in the shop; prior to this, no cables had been used.

Santiago described an incident that occurred following the implementation of the cable policy, but prior to his accident, in which the lock which secured the knife to the table pulled the knife off the table, causing it to "shoot up" and nearly hit him in the face. According to claimant, the locks were so heavy that the knives could not be placed on the tables without falling off. He explained without challenge that the only other place he could put the knife when not in use was between a metal surface and the butcher block, but this would have exposed the knife to bacteria, something he had explicitly been trained not to do. Accordingly, he was required to constantly hold the knife and could not put it down. Santiago testified that he warned several civilian cooks and correction officers about the problem, along with food administrator Bruce Garritt, to whom he demonstrated the problem, but nothing was done about it prior to June 29, 2000.

Claimant described his accident as follows: he had finished deboning a piece of meat and went to discard the bone while holding the knife in the same hand -- since it could not be put down safely. As he was moving his arm, the knife was stopped short by the cable, and cut his finger.

After the accident, a correction officer came and took Santiago to the infirmary, after which he was taken to Harris Community Hospital, where he was given two stitches and then returned to Sullivan. Claimant suggested that he should have been given more than two stitches and also that the stitches were improperly placed as he asserted that they came out two days later, requiring a Sullivan nurse to put "butterfly stitches" on his cut.

Santiago testified that as a result of the accident, he has no feeling in the tip of his finger and cannot close his fist all the way. However, he also testified that he was seen by a physical therapist who determined that he did not need physical therapy and he also conceded that the injury has not affected any of his daily activities.
* * *
Correction Officer Kenneth Decker testified that he took over for the deputy superintendent of security who was at Sullivan at the time of Santiago's accident. He explained that at one time, knives in the butcher shop were not restrained, but that at some point, the policy was changed pursuant to a statewide directive implemented at all correctional facilities for security reasons.
* * *
Bruce Garritt was the food administrator at Sullivan at the time of claimant's accident although he was not present in the butcher shop at the time of the accident. Garritt conceded that prior to the accident, Santiago had complained to him about the "hazard" of the cable and had showed him the problem. He also conceded that nothing was done to correct the problem.
* * *
Lola Romano, R.N. was at Sullivan on date of the accident. Reviewing Santiago's medical records, she testified that they showed he had suffered a deep laceration of his right index finger, that the finger was bandaged and that he was sent to an outside hospital.
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In order to establish defendant's negligence, Santiago must show that the condition which caused his injury was dangerous (
Madrid v City of New York, 42 NY2d 1039, 399 NYS2d 205 (1977)) and that the State either created, or had actual or constructive notice of the condition (Bernard v Waldbaum, Inc., 232 AD2d 596, 597, 648 NYS2d 700, 701 (2d Dept 1996)).
In this case, Santiago showed, without any contravening testimony, that a dangerous condition caused his injury: not the use of cables
per se, which policy was implemented via a Department of Correctional Facilities directive – but rather the use of cables without any way for the knives to be safely secured when not in use, requiring the inmates to hold them while performing other tasks. As to notice, as set forth above, Garritt, the food administrator, conceded that Santiago had showed him the cables and complained about the hazards of the situation. In sum, defendant is liable for Santiago's accident; there has been no showing that claimant contributed thereto.
As to Santiago's complaints about the stitches he received at Harris Community Hospital however, he provided no medical testimony that accepted standards of medical care were not met. See, e.g.,
Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516, 675 NYS2d 375 (2d Dept 1998), lv denied 92 NY2d 814, 681 NYS2d 475 (1998). More fundamental, however, is that the treatment of which Santiago complains was performed at an outside facility. There was no evidence that defendant had any knowledge that Harris Community Hospital should not have been used to provide care. Accordingly, the State cannot be held liable for treatment at such facility. See, e.g., Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789, 552 NYS2d 189 (3d Dept 1990), lv denied 76 NY2d 701, 557 NYS2d 878 (1990).
As to Santiago's damages, as set forth above, he conceded that none of his daily activities have been impaired by his injury, described above. I find that Jose Santiago was damaged in the amount of one-thousand dollars ($1,000) and accordingly he is awarded the amount of one-thousand dollars ($1,000). It is

ORDERED that to the extent claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act Section 11-a (2).


June 17, 2002
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims