New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LEIGH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-015-588, Claim No. 104776


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:
Kenneth Leigh, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Kevan Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 3, 2004
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In this claim filed with the Court on August 22, 2001, the claimant herein alleged that on May 27, 2001 "Officer A. Hurley intentionally opened 12 cell gate while his hand was outside of his closed cell." Claimant asserted that at approximately 8:30 a.m. he was holding a mirror outside his cell when his cell door was opened and his wrist was caught between the cell door bars resulting in injury.

At trial the claimant testified that at the time of the incident he was holding his cell mirror outside his cell door and, while his arm was placed between the bars of the cell door, the door was opened crushing his wrist and causing injury. The cell door was then closed and claimant was called down to the console area and informed by the correction officer on duty that he would face future disciplinary action should he place his mirror outside his cell door again. Claimant was instructed to return to his cell and lock in. He was later taken to emergency sick call and then to the hospital where he was treated with an ace bandage.

On cross-examination the claimant denied having been previously ticketed for having his mirror outside the cell door and stated that he was unaware that inmates were prohibited from placing a mirror outside their cell despite the fact that he had been in the DOCS system for a period of ten years. Claimant clarified the manner in which his injury occurred by describing the cell door apparatus as including both a moveable and fixed panel of bars. Claimant had placed his right arm through the cell door bars and was holding a mirror when the door was opened and his wrist was caught between the moving and non-moving portions of the door. Claimant testified that his wrist was scratched and became swollen. X-rays taken subsequent to the incident did not reveal a fracture and claimant's wrist was treated with a metal splint wrapped in an ace bandage.

Claimant rested at the conclusion of his cross-examination and the defendant called Correction Officer Augustus Hurley. The witness testified that he has been employed by DOCS for approximately 14 years and that on May 27, 2001 he was working at Great Meadow Correctional Facility operating the console which controls the opening and closing of inmate cell doors on both A and B Blocks.

Officer Hurley testified that on the above date the claimant had repeatedly placed his mirror outside his cell door. Officer Hurley stated that he warned the claimant that the mirror was for in- cell use only and that when the claimant continued to place the mirror outside the cell door he issued a misbehavior report. The officer denied that he opened the claimant's cell gate at any time other than upon his medical call-out on the morning of May 27, 2001.

On cross-examination Officer Hurley reiterated his earlier testimony that he instructed the claimant to refrain from using his mirror outside the cell door by unlocking the console, stepping out on the catwalk and communicating the instruction to the claimant. He stated that the only time he opened the claimant's cell door was at the direction of another officer who requested the action.

The claimant herein contends that he was injured when Correction Officer Hurley, without warning, opened his cell door while his arm was between the bars holding his mirror. He denies that he was previously warned against such behavior. Correction Officer Hurley testified that he warned the claimant against placing his mirror outside his cell door and that he issued a misbehavior report when the claimant failed to comply with his direct order. Officer Hurley further contends that the only time he opened the claimant's cell door was at the request of another correction officer who removed the claimant from his cell and took him to the infirmary for medical treatment. Because the testimony of the claimant and Officer Hurley conflict it is incumbent upon the Court to resolve this matter largely upon the Court's observations at trial. In this regard, the Court finds that the claimant has failed to establish that he was injured through the intentional conduct of Officer Hurley. After observing the witnesses at trial it is the Court's conclusion that Officer Hurley testified in a manner worthy of belief and accepts his testimony with regard to the events giving rise to this claim.

The claim is dismissed.

The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

February 3, 2004
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims