New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BROWN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-028-514, Claim No. 105033, Motion No. M-65914


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):

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

Signature date:
March 5, 2003

Official citation:

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See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read on Claimant's motion pursuant to CPLR §3212 for summary judgment:

1) Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Michael Brown (Brown Affidavit) filed October 10, 2002 with annexed Exhibits A-D
2) Affidavit in Opposition of Assistant Attorney General Michael C. Rizzo (Rizzo Opposition) filed October 23, 2002 with annexed Exhibits A-C

3) Reply Affirmation [sic] of Michael Brown (Brown Reply) filed November 4, 2002

: Claim and Answer

Michael Brown (Claimant) alleges he was wrongfully confined to a Special Housing Unit (SHU) following his return to Hudson Correctional Facility from a temporary release program. Claimant has moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability and Defendant has opposed the motion, contending that there are material questions of fact.

The following recitation of facts is based upon the Court's review of the papers submitted in connection with the instant motion. On March 25, 2000, Claimant, while on temporary release called 911 seeking medical assistance because of an apparent drug and alcohol overdose[1]. The Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) was notified and arranged for Claimant to be picked up at the Albany Medical Center Hospital and transported in the first instance to the Coxsackie Correctional Facility. Following an investigation, a misbehavior report, dated March 30, 2000, alleging three rule violations by Claimant was served upon him. Thereafter, a Tier III hearing was held on April 5, 2000 which resulted in a finding against Claimant on all three charges. Claimant sought review of that determination. On October 2, 2001, the Commissioner's designee determined the hearing had not been commenced within seven days of confinement and reversed. This Claim ensued.[2]

The rule governing summary judgment is well established: "The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case" (Winegrad v New York University Medical Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853), and such showing must be made "by producing evidentiary proof in admissible form" (Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562). "[R]egardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers", in the absence of admissible evidence sufficient to preclude any material issue of fact, summary judgment is unavailable (Ayotte v Gervasio, 81 NY2d 1062, 1063, quoting Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324). Summary judgment should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of a material issue of fact (Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404; Moskowitz v Garlock, 23 AD2d 943; Epstein v Scally, 99 AD2d 713). The Court's function is to determine if an issue exists. In doing so, the Court must examine the proof in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.

The quasi-judicial acts of correction employees taken in furtherance of authorized disciplinary measures are entitled to absolute immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 219-220). If officers act inconsistently with their own rules and regulations, or otherwise act outside the sphere of privileged actions, liability may attach. The fact that charges are ultimately dismissed does not give rise to a cognizable cause of action when there is no evidence defendant acted inconsistently with its own rules and regulations (Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765; cf. Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399 ). To establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a "species" of the tort of false imprisonment, [Gittens, supra, at 407], a claimant must show "...(1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the...[claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the...[claimant] did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged...." (Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456).

There are questions of fact which preclude the granting of summary judgment. Claimant premises his claim in part on the allegation that the misbehavior report should not have been written as there were two negative drug screens (see, Claim ¶ ¶ 6 and 18). However, the Court finds no evidence of a second negative drug test, thereby leaving open that issue of fact. Similarly, there are questions of fact, notwithstanding the administrative determination, as to when Claimant was confined and whether such confinement was privileged. Specifically, there is a question of fact whether Claimant was confined for purposes of 7 NYCRR § 251-5.1[3] on March 25, 2000 or some later date which would render the commencement of his hearing timely. Materials submitted by Defendant suggest that Claimant was taken into custody on March 25, 2000 pursuant to a warrant and commitment (see, Rizzo Opposition, Exhibit C) and confined pursuant to the misbehavior report on or after March 30, 2000 (see, Rizzo Opposition ¶ 7). Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds Claimant has failed to establish his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Given the factual disparities, resolution of this claim is best arrived at upon a full trial. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment is denied in its entirety.

March 5, 2003
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Claimant euphemistically refers to this as "a series of events... leading to ‘suspicion' " (see, Claim ¶ 3).
[2] Claimant also commenced an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court which was dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. Claimant's subsequent appeal of that decision was dismissed as moot (Matter of Brown v Goord, 290 AD2d 901).
[3] 7 NYCRR 251-5.1(a) provides as follows : "Where an inmate is confined pending a disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, the hearing must be commenced as soon as is reasonably practicable following the inmate's initial confinement pending said disciplinary hearing or superintendent's hearing, but, in no event may it be commenced beyond seven days of said confinement without authorization of the commissioner or his designee."