New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

INOCENCIO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-031-506, Claim No. 99926


Claimant failed to demonstrate his symptoms related to his vaccination for hepatitis B or that State committed either negligence or malpractice in offering claimant the vaccination. Claim dismissed.

Case Information

CHRISTOPHER INOCENCIO Caption amended sua sponte to show the only proper defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
Caption amended sua sponte to show the only proper defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
New York State Attorney General
BY: WENDY E. MORCIO, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 27, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Christopher Inocencio ("Claimant") filed Claim No. 99926 on April 30, 1999, against the State of New York, claiming medical malpractice/negligence. In the claim, Mr. Inocencio alleges that Defendant's agents gave him a series of 3 vaccinations for hepatitis B. According to Claimant, either he was not a candidate for the vaccinations or the vaccinations were improperly given to him, resulting in his suffering numerous maladies including headaches, joint pain, and loss of vision. I conducted a trial of this matter on May 9, 2002, at Wende Correctional Facility.

On direct examination, Claimant testified that prior to his vaccinations he had been working as an assistant in the Mental Health Unit of the facility. He knew that such work might expose him to hepatitis B and so, when a vaccination was offered to him, he accepted. The first of the series of 3 vaccinations occurred on April 9, the second on May 8, and the last on September 19, 1997. Claimant testified that some time after the vaccinations, he began experiencing the symptoms described above and that he is sure these were caused by the vaccinations.

Claimant called no other witnesses and, at the close of his direct case, Defendant moved for dismissal of the action for failure to prove a prima facie case of either medical malpractice or negligence.

Defendant called as its witness Dr. David O'Connell. Dr. O'Connell is a New York State licensed physician and has been a clinical physician with the Department of Correctional Services for 16 years. Dr. O'Connell testified that the symptoms of which Claimant complains could not have been caused by the vaccinations. He noted first that Claimant's symptoms were not connected temporally with the vaccinations. In fact, Claimant's first complaints about his symptoms occurred in December of 1998, more than one year after the vaccinations. Dr. O'Connell further testified that, not only were the Claimant's symptoms not similar to those which could be associated with an adverse reaction to the vaccinations, but that if Claimant did have a negative reaction to the vaccinations it would have manifested itself almost immediately afterward. Finally, Dr. O'Connell opined with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Claimant's symptoms were not caused by the vaccinations.

To establish a prima facie case of liability in a medical malpractice action, a claimant must prove: (1) the standard of care in the locality where the treatment occurred, (2) that the defendant breached that standard of care, and (3) that the breach of the standard was the proximate cause of injury (
Berger v Becker, 272 AD2d 565). When the medical malpractice involves patient treatment, three component duties are owed by the physician to the patient: (1) the duty to possess the requisite knowledge and skill such as is possessed by the average member of the medical profession; (2) a duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the application of such professional knowledge and skill; and (3) the duty to use his best judgment in the application of this knowledge and skill (Littlejohn v State of New York, 87 AD2d 951, 952, citing Pike v Honsinger, 155 NY 201, 209-210).
To sustain this burden, a claimant must present expert testimony that the defendant's conduct constituted a deviation from the requisite standard of care (
Berger v Becker, supra; Koehler v Schwartz, 48 NY2d 807 [Expert testimony is necessary... unless the matter is one which is within the experience and observation of the ordinary juror]). Neither the Court nor the Claimant possesses the requisite knowledge necessary to pass judgment on the connection between Claimant's vaccinations and his symptoms.
Similarly, a cause of action sounding in medical negligence, in essence, alleges negligent omissions or commissions by State caregivers which can be readily determined without the necessity of expert testimony. However, this theory is limited to "those cases where the alleged negligent act may be readily determined by the trier of the facts based on common knowledge"
(Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, 114 AD2d 254, 256). Such cases have involved scalding a patient with a hot water bottle (Phillips v Buffalo General Hospital, 239 NY 188), leaving an electric light bulb under the sheets (Dillon v Rockaway Beach Hospital, 284 NY 176), leaving a postoperative patient unattended in a bathroom (Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, supra), and other similar circumstances. I find that no such cause of action exists here and that an expert opinion is necessary to demonstrate how Claimant's care was improper, as well as how his alleged damages are in any way related to the vaccinations. The Claimant failed to sustain his burden of proof. He has offered nothing of probative value to prove that Defendant acted negligently or committed medical malpractice.
For the reasons stated above, Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim is granted. The Chief Clerk of the Court of Claims is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

September 27, 2002
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims