Claimant fell on June 29, 2002, getting out of his assigned top bunk bed while
incarcerated at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility (hereinafter referred to as
CVCF). He hit his back and leg as a result, and now seeks damages from the
At trial, Claimant testified that on February 1, 2002, he was issued a medical
permit for a bottom bunk. On May 14, 2002, he had a court trip and when he
returned to CVCF on June 27, 2002, he was assigned an upper bunk. He told a
correction officer in the dorm area that he had a bottom bunk permit. The
correction officer told Claimant that he needed a copy of the permit, and
Claimant could obtain a copy of the permit at the medical screening that
evening. Claimant went to the medical department and received a copy of the
bottom bunk permit that evening. Upon presenting the permit to the same
correction officer, Claimant was told he would have to take the top bunk that
evening because no bottom bunks were available.
Claimant testified that he, again, asked for assignment to a lower bunk the
next day, June 28, 2002, and was told there was a waiting list, and he would
have to wait his turn. The following day, June 29, 2002, a bottom bunk became
available, and Claimant requested it from Officer Haycock. Officer Haycock told
Claimant that someone else would be moved there.
At approximately 5:00 p.m., that same evening, Claimant was climbing out of his
assigned top bunk by using the locker (no ladders are provided) and his foot
slipped. He fell, hitting his upper back on a chair and right leg on the
locker. He was taken to the infirmary by stretcher. The inmates carrying the
stretcher dropped it on the way. Claimant was admitted to the infirmary with
complaints of back pain. Bruises were seen on his right scapula and right rib
area and small abrasions were noted on his right leg.
According to Claimant's medical records, he stayed in the infirmary through
July 2, 2002, and continued having back pain for a short time
Claimant testified he had back pain for approximately two months after this
incident. He testified that he currently has no back
Where a medical determination has been made, directing a certain course of
action, the failure to comply with the medical direction presents a cause of
action sounding in ordinary negligence (
see Mossman v Albany Medical Ctr. Hosp.,
34 AD2d 263, 264). Ministerial
neglect may also be in issue where there is proof that the State failed to
follow its established protocols (see Kagan v State of New York,
Claimant read, without objection, from the orientation handbook he received
upon his placement at CVCF. Claimant read from the housing section, which
provides in substance, that lower bunk bed assignments are on a "first come
first serve" basis. But any inmate assigned to a bottom bunk without medical
authorization will be moved to accommodate an inmate with a medical permit for a
lower bunk bed.
Although the lower bunk bed permit was not admitted into evidence, Claimant
testified that he was issued the bottom bunk permit by the facility doctor on
February 1, 2002 and was assigned to a bottom bunk before he left the facility
for a Court appearance on May 14, 2002. This was not disputed. Claimant
further established, through his uncontested testimony, that after returning to
CVCF a bottom bunk did become available on June 29, 2002, and he was not
assigned this lower bed, but was told that someone else would be assigned to it.
His lower bunk bed permit was not rescinded until September 2002.
Title 7 of New York Codes of Rules and Regulations § 1701.5, requires a
medical evaluation to determine whether an inmate being placed in a double cell
requires, due to a medical condition, a lower bunk bed assignment (7 NYCRR
§ 1701.5[c]). After an inmate has been assigned a lower bunk bed for
medical reasons, the assignment may not be changed without consulting with
medical staff (7 NYCRR § 1701.7[e]).
The Court finds that the State acted negligently in failing to place Claimant
in a bottom bunk bed upon his transfer back to the facility on June 27, 2002.
The State failed to follow the established rules and regulations for assessment
of Claimant's suitability for double cell housing and lower bunk bed
requirements. Claimant's undisputed testimony established that upon attending
his medical screening on June 27, 2002, he obtained and provided a copy of his
lower bunk bed permit with the correction officer on duty. Despite this,
Claimant was assigned to a top bunk bed. Claimant testified that a lower bunk
bed became available on June 29, 2002, but he was still not given a lower bunk
Since no medical testimony was provided, the Court does not find that the back
pain Claimant suffered for two months and his need to be reassigned from the
masonry program were causally connected to Claimant's fall on June 29, 2002.
Claimant did establish he injured his back and leg when he fell. The extent of
those injuries, however, was not established since Claimant also fell from the
stretcher, after he fell from the upper bunk, on his way to the infirmary.
Without medical testimony, the Court cannot determine what injuries were
thereafter related to his fall from the upper bunk.
The State is 100% liable for Claimant's injury immediately after his fall from
his upper bunk bed assignment. He is awarded the sum of SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY; and it is
ORDERED, that to the extent claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered
pursuant to Court of Claims Act §11-a(2).