New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MOORE v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-018-330, Claim No. 103850


Claimant failed to prove that the State had notice of a dangerous condition or was otherwise negligence in its maintenance of the shower area. The Court finds that the floor where Claimant fell was not unusually wet or inherently dangerous, but rather typical of conditions commonly found in a shower area. The claim is DISMISSED.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Heather R. Rubinstein, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 16, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, an inmate, seeks damages for injuries sustained when he fell leaving the shower in the J-1 dormitory bathroom at the Watertown Correctional Facility (hereinafter WCF). He testified that on December 17, 2000, shortly after 11:00 a.m., as he stepped out of the shower area, over a threshold, and onto the bathroom floor, his left foot gave way causing him to slip and fall resulting in lower back injuries. Claimant testified that there were no mats or curtains in the shower area to prevent water from getting onto the bathroom floor.

After his fall, Claimant was taken to Samaritan Hospital in Watertown for x-rays and treatment. He has received physical therapy four to five times and has been seen by orthopedic and neurologic specialists. He said his right leg tends to give way and he has constant pain in his upper leg. Surgery has been considered.[1]

Claimant introduced in evidence the Central Office Review results of two inmate grievances from January 24, 2001 and January 31, 2001, in which placement of "slippery when wet" signs near the showers, handles for the shower area, and rubber mats were requested. He argues that this established that the State had actual notice of the dangerous condition in the bathroom. Those decisions refer to previous grievances in which it was determined that shower mats would not be issued for sanitary and safety concerns. These decisions also note that there is no requirement for handrails or warning signs.

Claimant also testified that he had heard that a correction officer, he thought Officer Jewett from WCF, fell in the J-1 bathroom and sustained injuries. Although he did not know the date of this accident, he said it was before he had fallen.

Correction Officer Scott Hansen was called by both Claimant and Defendant. He currently is the fire and safety officer at WCF but was not in that position at the time of Claimant's accident. He was unaware of Officer Jewett's alleged fall, but acknowledged if it was investigated, a written report would be generated and filed with his office. He supplied inmate accident logs[2]
for the six months prior to Claimant's fall and found there were no slip and fall accidents in the J-1 bathroom during that time.
Negligence will not be inferred, the State is not an insurer and liability will not be imposed 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). To be successful, Claimant must prove that the State as landowner, either created a dangerous condition or had actual or constructive notice of the condition but failed to correct it within a reasonable time (Dapp v Larson, 240 AD2d 918). Whether a condition is dangerous requiring the landowner to take remedial measures depends upon the context or environment within which the condition is found. For instance, evidence of a wet floor at the edge of a pool, without more, is not proof of negligence; such a condition would be expected and incident to the use of the area (see Sciarello v Coast Holding Co. Inc., 242 App Div 802, affd 267 NY 585; Valdez v City of New York, 148 AD2d 697; Maull v State of New York, 16 Misc 2d 499, 503; see also Herrera v Piano, 125 AD2d 548). Here there was no evidence of significant water accumulation on the floor. The floor was wet. Some amount of water accumulation in the shower area is not unusual, should be expected and is " ‘necessarily incidental' to the use of the showers" (O'Neil v Holiday Health & Fitness Ctrs. of N.Y., 5 AD3d 1009, 1009). "[L]andowners will not be held liable for injuries arising from a condition on the property that is inherent or incidental to the nature of the property, and that could be reasonably anticipated by those using it"(Stanton v Town of Oyster Bay, 2 AD3d 835, 836; see also Bond v York Hunter Constr., 270 AD2d 112, 113, affd 95 NY2d 883; Csukardi v Bishop McDonnell Camp, 148 AD2d 657, 658). Claimant, on cross-examination, acknowledged that he had taken many showers and was familiar with water and soap in the shower area creating slippery conditions. There was no evidence to suggest that the State did anything to make the condition more dangerous than it appeared or failed to correct a problem that caused an unusually dangerous condition.
There was also no proof that the State had notice actual or constructive of the condition that caused Claimant's fall. The fact that grievances were filed requesting the placement of warning signs, mats and safety rails in the shower area does not place the State on notice of excessive water in the shower area. Moreover, general awareness that the floor around a shower area becomes wet is not sufficient to establish actual or constructive notice of the specific condition that caused Claimant's fall (
Gordon v American Museum of Natural History, 67 NY2d 836, 838, see also Gloria v MGM Emerald Enters., 298 AD2d 355, 356 [general awareness that bar patrons spill drinks on floor does not establish actual or constructive notice of particular condition that caused plaintiff's fall]; Kershner v Pathmark Stores, 280 AD2d 583, 584 [awareness that floor became wet during rainy weather not sufficient to establish constructive notice of condition causing plaintiff's fall]). The Court does not find that Claimant's vague hearsay reference to Correction Officer Jewett falling in the shower area competent evidence of notice to the State. There was no evidence that the State had notice, actual or constructive, of the wet condition that caused Claimant's fall.
At the close of the evidence, Defendant made a motion for dismissal of the claim, that motion is now GRANTED. Claimant failed to prove that the State had notice of a dangerous condition or was otherwise negligent in its maintenance of the shower area. The Court finds that the floor where Claimant fell was not unusually wet or inherently dangerous, but rather typical of conditions commonly found in a shower area. The claim must be DISMISSED. LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

September 16, 2004
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Claimant submitted his ambulatory health record after trial. The determination in this case makes these records irrelevant.
[2]Exhibit A.