New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TAYLOR v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-011, Claim No. 100198


Synopsis


Pro se inmate's Claim that he suffered injury as a result of a dangerous condition on a walkway at Wyoming Correctional Facility dismissed.

Case Information

UID:
2003-030-011
Claimant(s):
AARON TAYLOR
Claimant short name:
TAYLOR
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
100198
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
AARON TAYLOR, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERALBY: DEWEY LEE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 7, 2003
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Aaron Taylor, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 100198 that he was injured while an inmate at Fishkill Correctional Facility (hereafter Fishkill) due to the negligence of the Defendant's agents. Trial of the matter was held at Fishkill on February 21, 2003.

As an initial matter, the Defendant made an oral motion to dismiss the claim, in that it states that it arose at Fishkill Correctional Facility, when Claimant actually fell at Wyoming Correctional Facility (hereafter Wyoming). Defendant conceded, however, that the State was not prejudiced in terms of notice under the circumstances of this case. The Bill of Particulars clearly sets forth that the incident occurred at Wyoming, and earlier motion practice concerning the claim shows the State's actual knowledge of where the claim arose. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss on this basis was withdrawn.

Claimant testified that he had surgery to his right knee on January 6, 1999, and was still ambulating with the use of a cane per "local permit"[1]
as of March 4, 1999 when this incident occurred. [See, Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. It had been snowing since approximately 6:00 a.m. on March 4, 1999 and Claimant was at his dorm. He asserted that based upon his prior surgery, he was on "limitation status" whereby he would go to the library perhaps three times per week, and the "correction officer would usually let you not go if you didn't want to because it's a non-essential program."
At approximately 8:30 a.m. that morning Correction Officer Kibler gave Claimant a "direct order" to go to his "program," located in a different building. Claimant alleged that when he got outside, there was almost a foot of snow on the ground. The walkway he had to use had just been plowed; indeed, two correction officers were there directing the plow truck. He thought there might be ice underneath because of prior "melts." As he proceeded along the walkway, he "slid with [his] cane" and fell. Two inmates carried him to the facility emergency room where he was assessed and treated.

A Report of Inmate Injury form completed by the attending nurse confirms the incident, as well as the Claimant's contemporaneous remarks to medical personnel that there was ice under the snow. [Claimant's Exhibit "2"]. The Ambulatory Health Record (hereafter AHR) for that day also indicates that his "surgical incisions" were "intact," and his knee was "stable." [Claimant's Exhibit "3"]. The Nurse also notes a slight edema around the knee, and advised continued ambulation with a cane or crutches. The AHR notes for March 19, 1999 state that no wheelchair is "medically indicated" and that Claimant could use crutches.
[Ibid].

No evidence of any kind was submitted with respect to any claim of negligent medial care or treatment, and accordingly, these causes of action, although mentioned in the claim, are not addressed here.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

Although the State has a duty to protect inmates from foreseeable risks of harm, it is not the insurer of inmate safety. Its duty is to exercise "reasonable care under the circumstances..." [
Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233, 241 (1976)], to protect against foreseeable risks of harm. To establish the State's liability, the Claimant must show that the State had actual or constructive notice of the condition and failed to act reasonably to remedy it. Gordon v American Museum of Natural History, 67 NY2d 836, 837 (1986). Creation of a dangerous condition constitutes actual notice. Lewis v Metropolitan Transportation Auth., 99 AD2d 246, 249 (1st Dept 1984), affd 64 NY2d 670 (1984). With respect to constructive notice, any "...defect must be visible and apparent and it must exist for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to permit...[a defendant] to discover and remedy it...(citation omitted)." Gordon v American Museum of Natural History, supra, at 837. Claimant, too, may be said to be under a duty to see what was "readily observed by the reasonable use of one's senses....(citations omitted)." Breem v Long Is. Light. Co., 256 AD2d 294, 295 (2d Dept 1998).
Based upon the somewhat inconclusive evidence present here, even assuming there was a dangerous condition created by the plowing of the walkway and the alleged existence of ice underneath the plowed snow, there has been no credible showing that the State was aware of the condition and failed to cure it. It is only those foreseeable dangerous conditions which are not remedied within a reasonable time which may establish liability on the State's part, [
Gordon v American Museum of Natural History, supra], assuming that proximate cause and actual damages are proven as well. In cases involving winter conditions, even a failure to remove all ice and snow, or the existence of ice patches, is not necessarily presumptive proof of negligence. See, Hobbs v State of New York, 55 AD2d 710.
Here, Claimant has not convinced the Court that there was any ice in the first place, nor has he described with sufficient particularity exactly how and where his fall occurred. Notably, only his own self-serving testimony was submitted in support of the contention that there was ice. No other witnesses testified to that effect, although he indicated that correction officers were in the area.

Accordingly, Claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the State should be held liable in negligence for failing to alleviate an allegedly dangerous condition which it created or of which it had notice. Claim Number 100198 is hereby dismissed in its entirety.

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.


April 7, 2003
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] All quotations are to trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.