New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

COLLINS v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-018-158, Claim No. 98986


Court finds no negligence on the part of the State after trial. Claimant caused his own injuries. Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim after the close of claimant's case is granted.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: G. LAWRENCE, ESQUIREAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 7, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant seeks damages from the State of New York for negligence in failing to provide claimant with the "minimal civilized measures [sic] of lifes [sic] necessities, (which is water)."[1]
The incident in question occurred on July 17, 1997, at approximately 2:30 p.m. Claimant, an inmate at Riverview Correctional Facility, was on keep-lock status and was having his hour of daily recreation in an outside recreation yard. Claimant testified that he was doing sit-ups, and because it was hot, he asked Correction Officer LaForce if he could get a drink. The officer told him he could not. Claimant asked the officer if he could use the bathroom, but the officer again refused his request. Claimant then rested for a period of time, but returned to doing his sit-ups and consequently fainted a short time later. Claimant was taken to the infirmary on a stretcher. Claimant testified that he had bumped his head when he fell, and as a result he had lost sleep and had continuing headaches after this incident for approximately two weeks. Claimant's medical records were received into evidence which confirm he was transported to the infirmary on July 17, 1997. The records show he was treated and discharged later that day.
Claimant called Officer LaForce on his direct case. Officer LaForce testified that he was alone on duty for the keep-lock recreation period that day. The officer acknowledged that he had denied claimant access to water or the bathroom during that period because of the regulations restricting inmates on keep-lock status from traveling through the facility without an escort, Officer LaForce said he could not let claimant go for a drink or to the bathroom on his own. Officer LaForce did not recall claimant ever telling him that he did not feel well, nor did claimant explain that his health was the motive for his request to get a drink of water or to use the bathroom.

On cross-examination, Officer LaForce also indicated that inmates are aware of the fact that they are restricted in their movements while on keep-lock status, and that they need to be prepared for their hour of recreation. This means that all necessities, such as bathroom use, should have been taken care of prior to attending recreation. Officer LaForce recalled that claimant was vigorously doing sit-ups that afternoon prior to his fainting.

The State owes inmates in its correctional facilities a duty of reasonable care to protect them from injury (
Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874; Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495). The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of inmates, and the fact that an injury has been incurred does not, by itself, establish liability (Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850; Hirsh v State of New York, 8 NY2d 125). There must be some showing that the State breached its duty of care to the claimant and what is reasonable care is commensurate with the reasonable probability of injury (Palsgraf v Long Is. R.R. Co. 248 NY 339; Eackles v Natl. R.R. Passenger Corp., 207 AD2d 691; Bixby v Eddy, 167 AD2d 51; PJI 3d 2:10 at 183-184 [2002]). In other words, the State is not obligated to protect an inmate from engaging in conduct which causes injury to himself, where there was no reason for the State to know that the inmate would engage in such conduct (Compare, Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850, 851-852; Dunham v Village of Canisteo, 303 NY 498).
Here, claimant's own behavior caused his injury. Claimant chose to exercise vigorously on a very hot day. When he began to feel ill, he did not advise the officer on duty of his illness, but instead requested water and bathroom use when he knew or should have known such activities were restricted during keep-lock recreation. Failing to heed his physical warnings, claimant proceeded to exacerbate the situation by returning to vigorous activity, with full knowledge that he would have to wait for a drink or bathroom use. There was no negligence on the part of the State. Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim made after the close of claimant's case is now granted. The claim is dismissed.

The claim is hereby DISMISSED.

August 7, 2002
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Quote taken directly from claim, ¶ 4.