New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WATTS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-016-014, Claim No. 104748, Motion No. CM-66330


Motion for summary judgment on liability was denied.

Case Information

KATHRYN WATTS The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the State of New York.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended to reflect that the sole proper defendant is the State of New York.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):
Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Gordon & GordonBy: Peter S. Gordon, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Victor J. D'Angelo, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 26, 2003
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This is claimant's cross-motion for summary judgment on liability.[1] In the underlying claim, it is alleged that Kathryn Watts, a nurse administrator, was injured on October 6, 2000 when part of the bathroom ceiling fell on her in an apartment she rented in the "staffhouse" complex at Manhattan Psychiatric Center. The State of New York has a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises. See, e.g., Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233, 386 NYS2d 564 (1976). But the state is not an insurer and negligence may not be inferred solely from the occurrence of an accident. See Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719, 396 NYS2d 113 (4th Dept 1977). In order to establish liability, it must be shown either that the defendant created, or had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused claimant's accident. See, e.g., Bernard v Waldbaum, Inc., 232 AD2d 596, 597, 648 NYS2d 700, 701 (2d Dept 1996).

In this case, claimant's moving papers consist primarily of excerpts from her deposition testimony. According to claimant, in the spring of 2000, she noticed "a discoloration in my bathroom [ceiling] and the water was making a spot." She testified that she made repeated calls to the maintenance department to no avail and that finally, she went to the maintenance department to speak to Walter Camargo, who was in charge of building maintenance. She testified that Mr. Camargo then sent two men over "[a]nd they came and they looked at the ceiling and they did do something." Claimant could not recall the exact date but thought the men came over "a couple of months before or a month" before the accident. See pp. 10-12 of the December 17, 2002 Affirmation of Peter S. Gordon, Esq., which contains portions of the transcript of Ms. Watts' deposition.

Mr. Camargo, however, had a different recollection. He testified at his deposition that he first met Ms. Watts when she turned her keys in when moving out. He also specifically testified that he had no knowledge prior to October 6, 2000 of a leak from the apartment over Ms. Watts' apartment and that he "never gave orders for anybody to go into [Ms. Watt's] apartment" prior to the October 6, 2000 incident. See the third page of the February 12, 2003 affirmation of Victor J. D'Angelo, which contains portions of the transcript of Mr. Camargo's deposition.

In view of the foregoing, issues of fact remain as to whether the State had notice of a dangerous condition. Accordingly, having reviewed the parties' submissions[2], IT IS ORDERED that cross-motion no. CM-66330 be denied.

February 26, 2003
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Defendant had moved for summary judgment dismissing the claim in motion no. M-66019, but withdrew such motion in a letter dated February 3, 2003.
  1. [2]The following were reviewed: claimant's "cross motion for summary judgment " with affirmation in support and undesignated exhibits; and defendant's affirmation in opposition with undesignated exhibit.