New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PATTERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-016-090, Claim No. 105571


Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Bernard Patterson
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Joseph Romani, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
November 12, 2003
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This is the claim of Bernard Patterson, which was tried at Sullivan Correctional Facility. Mr. Patterson testified on his own behalf and defendant called Sullivan physician Wladyslaw Sidorowicz and nurse Sharon Lilley. In his claim, Patterson alleges that he was improperly treated for asthma while incarcerated at Sullivan.

Claimant testified that on December 19, 2001, he was transferred to Sullivan from Ulster Correctional Facility. Patterson said he arrived at about midnight and told an officer in the "draft area" that he needed asthma medication because he had not had any that day. Claimant added that a nurse was contacted and said he would have to wait until the morning.

Patterson testified that the following morning, he suffered an "asthma attack" and was taken to the infirmary where he was given medication. Claimant recalled that he was told he would be called back later in the day for additional medications after a doctor wrote prescriptions for them, but this did not happen. On December 21st, claimant went back to the infirmary and was given a single 300 mg dosage of the asthma medication Theophylline. Patterson testified that he told a nurse he needed a greater dosage, but was told that the doctor had decided to decrease his previous dosage. According to claimant, he had not yet seen a doctor at Sullivan at such time.

Patterson testified that he continued to suffer asthma problems thereafter and continued to go back to the infirmary, where he repeatedly told the nurse that the medication he received was not working and that his asthma was getting worse. Patterson recalled that he suffered five additional asthma attacks on January 6th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 14
th, 2002, and each time, he was given a "breathing treatment" at the infirmary. He testified that he finally saw a doctor on January 14th, who told him he was receiving less medication because "Albany" needed to "cut the budget." Claimant explained that prior to his transfer, he had been on 400 mg of Theophylline and had also been given both a steroid inhaler and an Albuterol inhaler. Once at Sullivan, he was given no inhalers and his Theophylline prescription was reduced to 300 mg.
Essentially, Patterson complains that he was not properly evaluated upon arrival at Sullivan, asserting that he should have been "screened" as soon as he walked in the door. Patterson also maintained that he should have been "weaned off" Theophylline, noting that he was switched to the asthma drug Singulair on May 14, 2002.

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Doctor Wladyslaw Sidorowicz testified that he is in charge of medical care at Sullivan. He said that upon Patterson's arrival at the facility, he was called by the night nurse, who said that Patterson was requesting asthma medications, specifically, Theophylline and inhalers. Sidorowicz testified that because claimant was not in distress, the nurse was advised to have him return to the infirmary the next morning.

Sidorowicz stated that the next morning, he reviewed claimant's records and felt that the Theophylline dosage that claimant had been taking should be reduced. Sidorowicz testified that Theophylline is prescribed as a "last resort" because of the danger of side effects such as the risk of heart attack. The doctor explained that claimant had a history of psychiatric conditions and Theophylline can interfere with the medications for such conditions. Sidorowicz also testified that Theophylline is not normally given to inmates as a prescription to carry out, but rather in single dosages at the infirmary. In claimant's case, however, a prescription was at one point prescribed (at a lower 200 mg dosage). Sidorowicz described this as a "compromise" agreed upon by himself and claimant's psychiatrist, because claimant had threatened to cut himself if he was not given Theophylline.

Sidorowicz also stated that in his view, claimant did not actually suffer from asthma, but rather from a chronic obstructive lung disease such as emphysema. The doctor added that he believed claimant acted out asthmatic symptoms in order to obtain Theophylline, and he said that the medical committee caring for claimant, which apparently included the psychiatrist, had determined that claimant was being manipulative to get Theophylline.

As to the process of screening inmates, Sidorowicz explained that if the inmate has a chronic problem, he is seen by a doctor the day after his arrival. If not, he is scheduled for the next available appointment with the doctor. Sidorowicz said that in Patterson's case, there was no need for him to be seen immediately.
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Nurse Sharon Lilley testified as to the screening of inmates upon arrival. She said that an inmate must be "in-drafted" by a nurse within 24 hours of arrival, and then scheduled for an appointment with a physician as appropriate. She explained that the doctor appointment could be the next day or on some later date, adding that most inmates are not seen immediately by the doctor. Lilley testified that this screening protocol was followed in Patterson's case.
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In order for Mr. Patterson to prevail in this case, he would have to present expert testimony that accepted standards of medical care were not met. See, e.g.,
Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516, 675 NYS2d 375 (2d Dept 1998), lv denied 92 NY2d 814, 681 NYS2d 475 (1998). In this case, claimant presented no such expert testimony as to his screening, his prescribed medications, or otherwise. In view of the foregoing, claim no. 105571 is dismissed.

November 12, 2003
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims