New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ADGER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-024, Claim No. 98662


Claimant failed to sustain burden of proof that correction officers used excessive force in quelling inmate altercation. Correction Officers acted reasonably under circumstances presented; Claim dismissed.

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:
BY: James E. Shoemaker, Assistant Attorney General,of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 12, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, Eugene Adger, a
pro se inmate, alleges he was unlawfully assaulted by correction officers while in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services at Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility"). The trial of this Claim was held on July 30, 2002 at the Elmira Correctional Facility.

At trial Claimant testified that on March 11, 1998, while he was incarcerated at the Facility, a gang related disturbance occurred in C-Block and that various inmates began throwing feces at each other as well as throwing feces at various correction officers. Claimant stated when correction officers came down to quell the disturbance, Claimant was accused of threatening to throw feces on the responding correction officers. As a result, Claimant was placed in restraints and leg irons, and transported to another cell, specifically Cell No. 106 in B-Block. Upon arrival at his new cell assignment Claimant alleges he was pushed into the cell and fell onto the floor. He alleges that he was beaten, kicked, and assaulted by numerous correction officers sustaining injuries consisting of contusions, and cuts to his head, leg, ankles, and arms. Claimant further stated on the date of the attack he was also denied medical attention, other than Advil for pain, and that no medical photographs of his injuries were taken. Claimant has since fully recovered.

During cross-examination, the State established that Claimant knew one of the Correction Officers, Lieutenant Gilmore, from previous incarceration at Attica Correctional Facility. While Claimant denied the same, it appears to the Court that there was some prior relationship between Lieutenant Gilmore and Claimant while at Attica, and that Claimant had told various inmates that he thought he was assaulted in retaliation for something that may have happened previously while at Attica. While Claimant denied he stated to Lieutenant Gilmore "I'll kill your fucking ass"[1]
, the Court's notes with interest Claimant was subsequently found guilty of assault on staff, violent conduct, and making threats at a disciplinary hearing held at the Facility relating specifically to this incident.

Claimant rested.

The State called Lieutenant Gilmore, who testified that on or about March 11, 1998, Claimant was being moved from C-Block to B-Block, Cell 106. The Claimant was in shackles and leg irons. When the leg irons were removed, Claimant kicked him in the left knee. Three other correction officers on the detail took control of the Claimant to prevent further injury. More specifically, Correction Officers Banks and Carpenter, who were on the detail, pinned Claimant face down on his cell bed. Officer Banks controlled the upper body of Claimant by placing his weight on the inmate's back and pinning the inmate's arms with his own. Correction Officers Carpenter and Weed controlled the inmate's legs with body holds by wrapping their arms around the inmate's lower body. At the same time Officer Squires removed the waist chain and applied a retention strap to the handcuffs. During the course of this altercation Claimant was continuously screaming at Lieutenant Gilmore "this is all about Attica, the next time I will kill you". The State also called Correction Officers Banks, Carpenter, and Squires, who all confirmed the testimony of Lieutenant Gilmore, that on or about March 11, 1998, as the Claimant was being placed in B-Block, Cell 106, he kicked Lieutenant Gilmore in his left knee as soon as his leg restraints had been removed. Correction Officers Banks, Carpenter, and Squires then testified they restrained Claimant, all stating that Claimant was forced onto the bed in Cell 106 and in fact restrained to prevent further assault to Lieutenant Gilmore or any of the other correction officers in the transport detail. The State also submitted Exhibit G, a copy of the Claimant's health record, showing that the Claimant was seen by Facility medical staff immediately after this use of force. The medical record of this examination (St. Ex. G) notes simple bruising, contusions, and abrasions to Claimant . Advil was prescribed to Claimant as well as "Betadine 2 pads - to cleanse abrasions" and "Polysporin ont. - apply to abrasions". (St. Ex. G). No other medical treatment was required.

Correction officers are charged with the unenviable task of maintaining order and discipline in correctional facilities under stressful circumstances. (
Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212). It is well-settled that correction officers are entitled to use physical force in order to achieve this goal, but "[o]nly such degree of force as is reasonably required shall be used". (7 NYCRR 251-1.2 [b]). The limited circumstances in which the use of force is tolerated by correction officers are as follows:
[a]n employee shall not lay hands on or strike an inmate unless the employee reasonably believes that the physical force to be used is reasonably necessary: for self-defense; to prevent injury to person or property; to enforce compliance with a lawful direction; to quell a disturbance; or to prevent an escape.

(7 NYCRR 251-1.2 [d]).
Moreover, in cases involving inmate allegations of excessive force by correction officers, such as here, the credibility of the respective witnesses is often the dispositive factor. (
Davis v State of New York, 203 AD2d 234). As the trier of fact, the Court in this instance credits the testimony of Lieutenant Gilmore and Correction Officers Banks, Carpenter and Squires. Here, the credible evidence established that Claimant instigated an attack on these officers and that their actions were in direct response to Claimant's own violent conduct. There was no credible evidence that officers used excessive force in responding to Claimant's behavior. In sum, the Court finds that the use of force in this case by the correction officers involved was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances with which they were confronted.

The Court has no hesitation in concluding that Claimant here bears sole responsibility for his own injuries as a result of his violent behavior.

For the reasons stated above, Claim No. 98662 is hereby DISMISSED.

Any and all motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or which were not previously determined, are hereby denied.


August 12, 2002
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the Court's trial notes.