New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

KNIGHT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-028-523, Claim No. 105426, Motion No. M-66105


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2003-028-523
Claimant(s):
MELONIE ERIKA KNIGHT, infant by her m/n/g MITCHELLE SHAW-KNIGHT, MITCHELLE SHAW-KNIGHT, Individually and ERIC KNIGHT, Individually
Claimant short name:
KNIGHT
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105426
Motion number(s):
M-66105
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RICHARD E. SISE
Claimant's attorney:
SUBIN ASSOCIATES, LLPBY: Gene L. Chertock, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Janet L. Polstein, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 20, 2003
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

The following papers were read and considered on the Defendant's Motion for an Order pursuant to Rules 3211 and 3212 of the CPLR, dismissing the instant claim[1] :

1) Notice of Motion and supporting Affirmation of Assistant Attorney General Janet L. Polstein (Polstein Affirmation) with annexed Exhibits "A-B", filed on December 2, 2002;

2) Affidavit in Opposition of Gene L. Chertock (Chertock Affidavit) with annexed Exhibits "A-F" filed February 3, 2003;


3) Letter of Assistant Attorney General Janet L. Polstein dated March 3, 2003.

The Claimants, Mitchelle Shaw-Knight and Eric Knight seek damages for the negligent infliction of mental and emotional distress resulting from the abduction of their daughter, infant Melonie Erika Knight, on April 7, 2000 while a patient at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

The Defendant contends that the Claim fails to state a cause of action on behalf of the parents for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Defendant relies on the case of Johnson v Jamaica Hospital (62 NY2d 523) in support of its position. In that case, the Court of Appeals held that no duty was owed to the parents of a child who had been abducted while in the nursery of Jamaica Hospital. The Court reasoned that a specific duty was owed to the infant and that absent having such a duty owed to them, the parents could not recover.

The attorney for the Claimants argues, inter alia, that the Defendant undertook a special duty based upon its conduct in the installation of "security" devices on the mother and child, as well as the security plans enacted by the hospital (Chertock Affidavit, p 2 [unpaginated]). The precautions taken by the Defendant are general in nature and give rise only to a general duty to hospital patients– not a specific duty to the parents, which the Court of Appeals stated is necessary before liability will be imposed (Johnson, supra at 527. See also Cuffy v City of New York, 69 NY2d 255 ). The inability of counsel to articulate a specific duty does not result from a paucity of discovery, but rather because one does not exist.

The Court finds the cases cited by Claimants' counsel to be distinguishable. In most of the cases no duty was found (see Paula v City of New York, 249 AD2d 100; Valerio v City of New York, 187 Misc 2d 867; Schlesinger v Pitney Bowes, Inc., 187 Misc 2d 298). In the remaining cases (see Freeman v St. Clare's Hospital & Health Center, 156 AD2d 300; Canty v New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., 158 AD2d 271) the Defendant violated a recognized duty and the Claimant suffered a direct injury as a result. In the instant claim, no direct injury was suffered by the parents, nor was there a recognized duty. While Claimants' counsel may believe that Johnson "...is just plain wrong in this day and age..." (Chertock Affidavit, p 5 [unpaginated]), it is still the law. Accordingly, the Court grants the State's Motion to Dismiss the causes of action of Mitchelle Shaw-Knight and Eric Knight for the negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The Motion, to the extent that it might have been deemed to apply to the remaining causes of action, is denied without prejudice.


March 20, 2003
Albany, New York
HON. RICHARD E. SISE
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] The Motion relates only to the causes of action of the parents alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress (see letter of Asst. Attorney General Polstein).