Claimant seeks damages for injuries she sustained on November 7, 1999 during
her incarceration at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (Bedford). Claimant
alleges that the soap dispenser in the laundry area leaked and caused her to
slip and fall on the floor. The trial of this claim was bifurcated and this
Decision pertains solely to the issue of liability.
ousing unit 113CD had a laundry area equipped with a washing machine and dryer
for inmate use. Adjacent to the washing machine was a gray cabinet containing
two plastic pails of soap and bleach. Pumps dispensed the soap and bleach from
each pail, through plastic tubes, into the washing machine during the cleaning
cycle. The soap was a blue colored detergent. The pumps were preset to
transfer four ounces of soap and two ounces of bleach at the appropriate
Correction Officer Andrew DeMers testified that on Friday, November 5, 1999,
two days prior to
claimant's accident, he was making his rounds at 11:30 p.m. when he slipped in
the laundry area. After his slip, he noticed a blue round puddle approximately
four feet in diameter (T:283-84).
observed that the liquid was coming from the gray cabinet where the soap was
stored (T:285). He mopped the area, set up wet-floor signs, and completed a
maintenance work request form (T:285-86). On a subsequent round at 5:00 a.m.
the next morning, DeMers noticed a smaller puddle of the same solution
(T:286-87). He mopped the area and left the wet-floor signs in place. Before
he finished his shift, DeMers made an entry in the logbook at 6:00 a.m. which
read, "[l]aundry cabinet next to washer leaking liquid soap on floor" (Ex. 2).
DeMers advised the sergeant making rounds and he signed the maintenance work
request. DeMers was unaware of any complaints of a leaking soap dispenser prior
to November 5, 1999 (T:288).
Claimant testified that on Sunday, November 7, 1999, at approximately 8:00 p.m.,
she was eating dinner at a table near the laundry area. During the course of
her meal, claimant stood up and walked toward the dryer to check her clothing.
She took two or three steps and slipped and fell on a "soap film" (T:297). She
described the condition as "a very thick film as though somebody had taken some
Crisco and rubbed it on the floor and then taken a paper towel and taken one
swipe and wiped it up. It wouldn't have eliminated all that was there. Just
what you could see. It just felt slippery and was very, very shiny" (T:303).
She had not observed any soap on the floor when she placed her clothes in the
washing machine, nor had she noticed any problem with the soap dispenser prior
to her fall. Claimant testified that she later learned that the soap cabinet
had been leaking and inmates had been using a dry mop to clean up the spills.
She acknowledged that inmates can use their own detergent, rather than the blue
soap which is dispensed (T:302).
Correction Officer Brian Adamczyk responded to
claimant's accident at approximately 8:15 p.m. He observed a
liquid in a small puddle near the soap
dispenser cabinet (T:276). Adamczyk described the color of the floor as tan
with white specks (T:277). He stated that the floor was not slippery as he
walked in the laundry area (T:275). Adamczyk dispatched claimant to the nurse
and directed a porter to mop the floor. Although it was standard operating
procedure to record inmate accidents in the logbook, Adamczyk failed to make the
entry. He did note at 9:40 p.m. that the "washing machines are not to be used
per Sgt. Chilson until repairs have been made to them" (Ex. 2). Neither the
weekly health and safety inspection report dated November 7, 1999, nor the daily
safety checklists indicated a problem in the laundry area (Exs. D,
claimant's accident, Adamczyk was not aware of any complaints of a slippery
condition in the laundry area, nor was he aware of any falls in that area
(T:276). He never observed any substance on the floor prior to claimant's
accident (T:267, 280).
Mark Hayo, Maintenance Supervisor III at Bedford since 1997, testified that
his responsibilities included maintenance at the facility and supervising 14
employees. He receives maintenance requests daily. He did not recall if he had
November 5, 1999 request to repair the washing machine in housing unit 113CD
(T:323-24). He further testified that he could not recall if he had ever
received any requests for repairs to the soap cabinet or soap dispenser prior to
November 7, 1999 (T:324). A search of his records did not reveal any such
maintenance requests. However, he explained that records are only retained for
three years and that, by the time he was asked to locate the records, they would
have been destroyed. Despite his testimony that he did not recall receiving any
requests for repairs to the soap cabinet, Hayo acknowledged that the soap
dispensers have been repaired in the past due to problems with leaking
Hayo also explained that, except for emergencies, maintenance work was not
done on the weekends (T:337). Accordingly, a work request written on Friday
would ordinarily not be received until the following Monday or Tuesday
It is well established that "[t]he State - just as any other party *** is
responsible, in the operation and management of its schools, hospitals and other
institutions, only for hazards reasonably to be foreseen, only for risks
reasonably to be perceived" (
Flaherty v State of New York
, 296 NY 342, 346) and with respect to the
safety of persons on its property, the duty of the State is one of reasonable
care under the circumstances (see Miller v State of New York
NY2d 506, 513; Preston v State of New York
, 59 NY2d 997, 998; Basso v
, 40 NY2d 233, 241). The State, however, is not an insurer of the
safety of its premises and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the
happening of an accident (see Killeen v State of New York
, 66 NY2d
850, 851; Condon v State of New York
, 193 AD2d 874).
In order to prevail on her claim, claimant must show: the existence of a
foreseeably dangerous condition; that the State created the condition or had
either actual or constructive notice of the condition; that the State failed to
remedy the condition within a reasonable time; that such condition was a
proximate cause of claimant's accident; and that claimant sustained damages
see Gordon v American Museum of Natural History
, 67 NY2d 836;
Ligon v Waldbaum, Inc.
, 234 AD2d 347; Mercer v City of New York
223 AD2d 688, affd
88 NY2d 955).
Upon consideration of all the evidence, including listening to the witnesses
testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that
the credible evidence established that defendant had notice of the leaking soap
dispenser and defendant's negligent maintenance was a proximate cause of
claimant's fall. Hayo testified that the soap dispenser had been repaired in
the past and, just two days prior to claimant's accident, DeMers slipped due to
the leaking soap dispenser. Additionally, DeMers' testimony established that he
had observed the leaking soap dispenser to pose a continuing problem within his
same tour of duty. DeMers testified that he completed a maintenance request
form on the Friday before claimant's accident (T:286) and Hayo testified that a
form completed on a Friday would ordinarily not be received until the following
Monday or Tuesday
(T:337-38). Therefore, it
was reasonably foreseeable that someone else, in addition to DeMers, might slip
due to the same dangerous condition. Thus, defendant was negligent in its
failure to either close the laundry area or keep the wet-floor signs in place
after DeMers had slipped on November 5,
Accordingly, the Court finds
defendant to be 100 percent liable for claimant's accident. A trial on the
issue of damages will be held as soon as practicable.
LET INTERLOCUTORY JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.