New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MOORE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2002-030-032, Claim Nos. 99828, 99829


Pro se inmate's claim of medical malpractice dismissed for failure to prove prima facie case.

Claim of ministerial neglect sustained. Damages for past pain and suffering $500.00.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
99828, 99829
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 22, 2002
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Allen Moore, the Claimant herein, alleges in both Claim Number 99828 and Claim Number 99829 that the defendant's agents negligently failed to provide him with proper medical care while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of both these claims, combined on consent of Claimant, was held at Sing Sing on January 25, 2002.

Claimant testified that on or about January 21, 1992, while working as a gym porter at Sing Sing, he pulled out his back and hip. He had been engaged in "removing weights from the area"[1]
- a procedure normally done by more than one inmate - when he "pulled a muscle in his back." He was taken to the facility hospital, examined, released and placed on pain medication.
The next day he was "unable to get out of bed...[and] felt a numbness in...[his] legs and in...[his] back". He was taken back to the facility hospital, examined, and released back to his cell with pain medication. "This went on for four years - pain medication and x-rays which didn't show the immediate problem and nothing. [He] made numerous requests for an MRI since the x-rays weren't showing what the problem was, but...[he] wasn't given an MRI until 1996." A herniated disc was discovered from the MRI.

Thereafter, he was seen by an "outside doctor", who explained that he would require surgery to correct the problem. In or about January, 1997, he signed consent forms allowing the surgery. On March 17, 1997 he was admitted to St. Agnes Hospital, where he remained until March 23, 1997. He was discharged with a walking cane and staples in his back. He indicated he still feels numbness in his leg to this day.

In his claim, Claimant asks for: compensatory damages in the amount of $50,000.00; punitive damages in the amount of $75,000.00; and damages for personal suffering in the amount of $1,000,000.00.

No other witnesses testified.

It is "fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons," including proper diagnosis and treatment.
Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789 (3d Dept. 1990), lv denied, 76 NY2d 701 (1990).
In a medical malpractice claim, the Claimant has the burden of proof and must prove (1) a deviation or departure from accepted practice and (2) evidence that such deviation was the proximate cause of the injury or other damage. A cause of action is premised in medical malpractice when it is the medical treatment, or the lack of it, that is in issue. A Claimant must establish that the medical care giver either did not possess or did not use reasonable care or best judgment in applying the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners in the field. The "‘claimant must [demonstrate] that the physician deviated from accepted medical practice and that the alleged deviation proximately caused his...injuries' (
Parker v State of New York , 242 AD2d 785, 786...)." Auger v State of New York, 263 AD2d 929, 931 (3d Dept. 1999). Without such medical proof, no viable claim giving rise to liability on the part of the State can be sustained. Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025 (4th Dept. 1976), lv denied, 40 NY2d 804 (1976). A medical expert's testimony is necessary to establish, at a minimum, the standard of care. Spensieri v Lasky, 94 NY2d 231 (1999).
If a claim can be read to allege simple negligence, or medical negligence, then the alleged negligent omissions or acts by the State's employees can be readily determined by a fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity of expert testimony.
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, 114 AD2d 254, 256 (1st Dept. 1986). Similarly, the State may be found liable for ministerial neglect if its employees fail to comply with an institution's own administrative procedures and protocols for dispensing medical care to inmates. Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7,10 (2d Dept 1996).
In this case, only the testimony of the Claimant has been presented in support of any claim of malpractice. No competent medical evidence was presented, through a treating physician or an expert witness whose opinion was based upon the available medical records, to support the allegation of medical malpractice. There is no medical evidence on any medical issue and thus no proof that accepted standards of care were not met. Accordingly, that portion of Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to make a
prima facie case, reserved on at the time of trial, is hereby granted, and the claim of medical malpractice is hereby dismissed.
With respect to a claim of simple negligence, there is some indication that the actions of medical care givers amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect.
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, supra; Kagan v State of New York, supra. Claimant's testimony concerning chronic pain suffered for a period of four years until a test which immediately discerned the presence of a herniated disc is uncontradicted. While it is not entirely discernable on this record to what degree Claimant's suffering might have been avoided by an earlier MRI, and earlier diagnosis of his condition, his testimony that most of his pain disappeared after the suggested operation - except for continued numbness in his left leg - supports a view that an early diagnosis could have prevented some pain. Indeed, as part of a general policy to provide "adequate health care and health care services...." [See, 9 NYCRR § 7651.1], regulations require regular physical examinations [9 NYCRR § 7651.9(a)(3)], and "...access to special diagnostic and therapeutic services...." [See, 9 NYCRR § 7651.16 (a)]. Thus, the Court is convinced that some degree of pain might have been avoided by earlier diagnosis. See, e.g., Ford v State of New York, Claim No. 96731, Corbett, J., August 7, 2001. Accordingly, Claimant is awarded $500.00 for his pain and suffering attributable to Defendant's failure to afford him an earlier visit for diagnostic treatment.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

March 22, 2002
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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