New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SAIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-030-016, Claim No. 101844


Synopsis


Pro se inmate's Claim that Defendant's agents negligently failed to protect him from an assault


by fellow inmates dismissed for failure to establish a prima facie case. No foreseeable risk.

Case Information

UID:
2002-030-016
Claimant(s):
JOSEPH SAIN
Claimant short name:
SAIN
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
101844
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
JOSEPH SAIN, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: ELYSE ANGELICO, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 11, 2002
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Joseph Sain, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 101844 that the defendant's agents negligently failed to protect him from an assault by fellow inmates while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on January 15, 2002.

Claimant testified that on or about September 26, 1999 at approximately 9:05 AM "while on my way to recreation down the south end stairway in A-Block ...I was attacked from behind, I was slashed, I was stabbed in my ear, I was pushed down a flight of stairs and I was cut numerous times on my head."[1]
He testified that two correction officers - "Officer Reda and Officer Iyekegbe" - were present, "...standing under the landing where this occurred...," but did nothing to protect him or to "insinuate themselves somewhat into the situation to prevent any further physical altercation...." He did not know his attackers.
Claimant was taken to an "outside hospital" for treatment of his injuries.

In the Inmate Misbehavior Report regarding the incident, the correction officer writes that Claimant and an inmate Khalid were observed fighting and, upon instruction, stopped fighting. The officer notes that claimant was observed to have "blood on his face....attempted going after inmate S. Khalid again...[When ordered to stop, Claimant again] put his hands on the fence....All inmate Sain's injuries appeared to have been by a razor-type weapon but no weapon was found at the scene." [Claimant's Exhibit "1"].

No other witnesses testified.

While the State must provide inmates with reasonable protection against foreseeable risks of attack by other inmates, [
Blake v State of New York, 259 AD2d 878 (3d Dept. 1999); Sebastiano v State of New York, 112 AD2d 562 (3d Dept. 1985)], the State is not the insurer of the safety of inmates, and the fact that an assault occurs does not give rise to the inference of negligence (Sebastiano v State of New York, supra.). In order to establish liability on the State's part, an inmate claimant must allege and prove one of the following grounds: (1) the victim was a known risk and the State failed to provide reasonable protection (See, Sebastiano v State of New York, supra.); (2) the State had notice that the assailant was dangerous and refused to take the proper precautions [See, Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833 (3d Dept. 1995); Wilson v State of New York, 36 AD2d 559 (3d Dept. 1971)]; or (3) the State had notice and the opportunity to intervene to protect the inmate victim and failed to act. Smith v State of New York, 284 AD2d 741, 728 NYS2d 530 (3d Dept. 2001). The mere fact that a correction officer is not present at the precise time and place of an assault does not give rise to an inference of negligence absent a showing that officials had notice of a foreseeable dangerous situation. Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842 (3d Dept. 1994); Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914 (4th Dept. 1990), lv denied, 76 NY2d 711 (1990).
Additionally, the court must consider whether there was information which would trigger any heightened awareness of a risk to this inmate - any "suspicious" behavior such as an individual leaving an assigned work post, or stuffing magazines in his shirt to avoid injury - to alert correction personnel of a specific danger brewing.
See, e.g., Huertas v State of New York, 84 AD2d 650 (3d Dept. 1981).
Even an inmate's request for protective custody may not necessarily trigger a specific duty to protect, if the inmate does "...not alert the interviewing...[correction officers] of his past problems, a specific hazard or a particular urgency to his situation."
Roudette v State of New York, 224 AD2d 808, 809 (3d Dept. 1996).
Additionally, the fact that officers may not have been present at the precise time and place of the assault, does not give rise to liability.
Colon v State of New York, supra; Padgett v State of New York, supra. "...[U]nremitting supervision..." is not required. Colon v State of New York, supra, at 844. Here, when the assault occurred, it was dealt with in a comprehensive and appropriate fashion, and immediate medical care was given.
Based upon this record, Claimant has failed to establish that the State failed to provide him with reasonable protection against a foreseeable risk of harm. He himself appears to have been cited as a participant in a fight. Even if he participated only defensively, he has nonetheless failed to establish that the State had notice of dangerous inmates, notice of the likelihood of his being a victim, or did not act speedily to protect him once the fight began. Claimant has failed to establish a
prima facie case. Claim Number 101844 is dismissed in its entirety.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

March 11, 2002
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims



[1]All quotations are to trial notes or audio tapes unless otherwise indicated.