New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-565, Claim No. 106218, Motion Nos. M-65548, M-65549


Synopsis


Claimant's motions to appoint a referee to supervise discovery and to compel discovery are denied.

Case Information

UID:
2002-019-565
Claimant(s):
JAMES WILLIAMS The Court notes that both sets of motion papers contain a Supreme Court caption together with individually named defendants. The Court is treating these papers as if they were filed with the proper caption as reflected in the originally filed Claim.
Claimant short name:
WILLIAMS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court notes that both sets of motion papers contain a Supreme Court caption together with individually named defendants. The Court is treating these papers as if they were filed with the proper caption as reflected in the originally filed Claim.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
106218
Motion number(s):
M-65548, M-65549
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
JAMES WILLIAMS, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: James E. Shoemaker, Assistant Attorney General,of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 6, 2002
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision


Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, moves for an order appointing a referee to supervise discovery (Motion No. M-65548), as well as an order directing the defendant to respond to discovery demands pursuant to CPLR 3124 (Motion No. M-65549). The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes both motions.


The Court has considered the following papers in connection with these motions:
1. Claim, filed June 13, 2002.
2. Notice of Motion No. M-65548, dated May 29, 2002, and filed July 17, 2002.
3. Affidavit of James Williams, in support of motion, sworn to May 29, 2002, with attached exhibits.
4. Notice of Motion No. M-65549, dated May 29, 2002, and filed July 17, 2002.
5. Affidavit of James Williams, in support of motion, sworn to June 17, 2002, with attached exhibits.
6. Affirmation of James E. Shoemaker, AAG, in opposition to both Motion No. M-65548 and M-65549, dated August 14, 2002, and filed August 16, 2002.

Claimant alleges he was injured as the result of an attack by another inmate identified as Gilberto Alba while incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility") on April 18, 2002. The theory of liability is the State's negligent supervision of the inmates in the Facility.

Motion No. M-65548

By way of this motion, Claimant seeks the appointment of a referee to supervise discovery. The State represents that Claimant has never made any discovery demands upon the Attorney General's office, thereby making Claimant's motion premature. The Court agrees. It appears that Claimant's so-called discovery demands were FOIL and document requests made to the Inmate Records Coordinator at the Facility. (Claimant's Exhibits A, B, C, D & F). With respect to the Notice of Discovery and Inspection attached to Claimant's papers, there is no proof that it was ever served on the Attorney General's office. (Claimant's Exhibit E). In sum, Claimant has failed to establish that he has ever served the State in this action with any discovery demands or that the State has refused to respond to any such demands. Quite simply, Claimant has not yet pursued discovery through ordinary means and, as such, a request for the appointment of a referee to supervise discovery is premature and improper. (Smith v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 8, 2001, Sise, J., Claim No. 103396, Motion No. M-63731).


Motion No. M-65549

Claimant also moves for an order compelling the State to produce various items in discovery pursuant to CPLR 3124, including (1) a videotape of the April 18, 2002 assault; (2) photographs of Claimant taken after said assault; (3) a copy of the master index from May 1, 2001 to May 1, 2002; and (4) Facility rules and regulations regarding the interaction of special housing unit inmates with cadre inmates. The State denies it has ever received any discovery demands from Claimant. The Court finds that this pro se Claimant is confusing service of various requests on Facility officials with a formal discovery demand made in the course of litigation which must be served on the Attorney General's office pursuant to the CPLR. As such, Claimant may not seek relief under CPLR 3124 unless and until he has served discovery demands in accordance with the CPLR and the Uniform Rules of the Court of Claims and such demands are improperly rejected or inadequately answered by the State. That having been said, however, the Court notes that the Facility in this case advised Claimant in writing that no videotape or photographs exist and that the Master Index could be obtained via the Facility library. In opposition, the State reiterates that it appears that no videotape was located pursuant to this record, but that upon receipt of a formal discovery demand it would initiate a search of the records for the photographs and medical records, even providing the address to which Claimant should send such demands. In sum, Claimant should pursue the discovery devices and procedures available to him through CPLR Article 31 via the Attorney General's office. Consequently, without preexisting discovery demands there is no basis on which to grant Claimant's motion to compel discovery.


Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, it is ORDERED that Claimant's motions to appoint a referee to supervise discovery and to compel discovery, Motion Nos. M-65548 & M-65549, respectively, are DENIED.


September 6, 2002
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims