New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BUTLER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-015-592, Claim No. 105709


Synopsis


Case Information

UID:
2004-015-592
Claimant(s):
MELVIN BUTLER
Claimant short name:
BUTLER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105709
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Melvin Butler, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Kevan Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 11, 2004
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
In his claim filed March 7, 2002 the claimant alleges that as the result of the negligence of the State of New York he was attacked by a fellow inmate in the mess hall foyer at Great Meadow Correctional Facility on the afternoon of December 12, 2001. The claim asserts causes of action premised upon the negligence of the State in failing to utilize metal detectors available at or near the site of the incident and in failing to adequately inspect the inmate identification cards of those inmates awaiting access to the main recreational yard. Claimant asserts that he would not have been attacked had the State discovered his assailant's weapon through use of available metal detectors or that claimant's attacker was in an area for which he was not authorized. The trial of this matter was held at Great Meadow Correctional Facility on December 3, 2003.

At trial the claimant testified that at approximately 2:30 p.m. on December 12, 2001 he was in the mess hall foyer of Great Meadow Correctional Facility waiting in line to enter the main recreational yard. According to claimant only those inmates who possess a blue inmate identification card are permitted to enter the yard at 2:30 p.m. Other inmates, such as honor block inmates who are issued yellow identification cards, are not permitted to enter the yard at 2:30 p.m. Claimant alleges that as he was waiting to enter the recreational yard he was attacked and stabbed by an inmate whose name he did not know but with whom he was familiar. Claimant was injured as a result of the attack and required three to four stitches under his left eye and five stitches to his scalp.

On cross-examination the claimant conceded that he had not previously identified the attacking inmate as an enemy to correction officials and had no problems with the inmate prior to the date of the incident.

The defendant presented the testimony of Correction Officer Denton who was stationed in the mess hall foyer at Great Meadow when the claimant was attacked by an inmate identified as inmate Kaiser at approximately 2:30 p.m. on December 12, 2001. The officer described the area where the incident took place as a foyer which runs between a gate near the entrance to the mess hall and a door which opens out to the facility's main recreation yard. According to the witness he was checking inmate program and identification cards at the gate between the mess hall and the doorway to the yard when he noticed that inmate Kaiser possessed a yellow rather than a blue identification card. According to the officer only inmates possessing blue identification cards are allowed into the yard at 2:30 p.m. Officer Denton attempted to stop inmate Kaiser who pushed him out of the way and began stabbing the claimant. The officer testified that he then attempted to assist the claimant and in so doing struck inmate Kaiser with his baton several times. Inmate Kaiser was subsequently brought under control.

At the conclusion of the proof the defendant moved to dismiss the claim for failure to establish a prima facie case. That motion is now granted to the extent that those portions of the claim which assert negligence by the defendant in its failure to utilize available metal detectors is dismissed. Claimant offered no proof of any type regarding the utilization of metal detectors and has therefore in that regard failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence.

The proof at trial established that the claimant did not know his assailant's name and that although he was familiar with inmate Kaiser he had never had any problems or altercations with him prior to the date he was attacked. The proof establishes that Correction Officer Denton was present and checking the inmate identification cards of those inmates waiting in line to access the main recreation yard when he discovered that inmate Kaiser possessed a yellow rather than a blue identification card. The officer was about to address the issue when he was pushed out of the way and the claimant was attacked. The claimant does not allege that Correction Officer Denton was negligent in preventing the attack except to the extent that he should have earlier discovered inmate Kaiser's yellow identification card and removed him from the mess hall foyer.

The Court finds that the claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Officer Denton was in any way negligent. Officer Denton was at his assigned station preforming his assigned duties when claimant was attacked by an individual with whom he had no previous history of threats or violence. Once the claimant was attacked Officer Denton responded immediately and ended the attack. Claimant has simply failed to provide any evidence of negligent conduct on the part of Officer Denton and, as a result, the claim is dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.


February 11, 2004
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims