Claimant, Nick Christodoulou, a pro se inmate, brings this claim alleging he
sustained injury as a result of an assault by another inmate which resulted due
to negligent supervision of the prison population by the Department of
Correctional Services. The trial of this claim was held on February 17, 2004 at
the Elmira Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility").
At the trial, claimant testified that on June 17, 1996 at approximately 3:30
p.m., he was attacked by an unknown inmate while in the Field House at said
Facility. During the course of that attack, claimant testified that he was
assisted by a fellow inmate named Mytias. The altercation, according to
claimant, was quelled by correction officers located in the Field House who
cuffed claimant and put him against the wall. Claimant testified that while he
was against the wall with his hands cuffed behind him, his throat was cut and
he was hit about the face and head with a chair, by another unrestrained inmate.
Claimant further testified that after the fight he was placed in involuntary
protective custody and while in said custody was attacked again by another
On cross-examination by the Assistant Attorney General, the claimant admitted
he did not know his attacker, he had no prior problems with any other inmates at
the Facility, nor had he ever relayed to correction officers or the Facility any
anticipated problems with other inmates also housed at the Facility. He
acknowledged that Inmate Mytias, who allegedly was there to assist him during
the course of the fight was charged with a weapons possession violation.
Furthermore, the claimant could not identify who the correction officers were at
said location or how many were present. After offering his testimony the
At the close of the claimant's case, the State moved to dismiss on the grounds
that the claimant had failed to establish a prima facie case of negligent
supervision, and that he had failed to sustain his burden of proof by failing to
offer any evidence that any attack was reasonably foreseeable or that there was
anything that the Facility failed to do to provide reasonable protection to the
claimant. The court reserved decision on this motion.
The State called Correction Officer Perfetti and Correction Officer Evans, both
of whom were on duty at the Facility Field House at the time of the assault.
Both testified that their attention was drawn to the TV area of the Field House
by a confrontation that was taking place. Both officers responded to the
commotion in less than one minute. Upon arrival, both observed Inmate Mytias,
who claimant alleged was assisting him in warding off the attack, attacking the
claimant and slashing at him with a box cutter. Inmate Mytias was cornered by
the correction officers and the razor in his possession was confiscated.
Claimant was also placed under control and both were placed in custody. More
importantly both correction officers testified that once the claimant was cuffed
and placed against the wall, no further assault took place against the claimant.
In fact, the State offered Exhibit A, an involuntary protective custody
recommendation which outlines the factual scenario underlying this altercation
consistent with the officer's testimony at trial. Both correction officers
testified that they had no prior notice of a problem between claimant and
Mytias, that they had no prior assault problems with the claimant or Mytias, and
no prior notice of this actual incident preparing to boil over.
It is well settled that the State owes a duty of care to safeguard inmates, a
duty which includes prevention of attacks from fellow inmates. That having been
said, however, this duty does not transform the State into an insurer of inmate
Sanchez v State of New York
, 99 NY2d 247). Rather, in order to establish
liability in an inmate assault case, claimant must demonstrate one of the
following: (1) the State knew or should have known that decedent was at risk of
being assaulted and yet failed to provide reasonable protection; (2) the State
knew or should have known that the assailant was prone to perpetrating such an
assault and the State did not take proper precautionary measures; or (3) the
State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene but did not act.
99 NY2d 247). In Sanchez
, the Court of Appeals
clarified that the test of foreseeability includes not only actual notice, but
in addition "[t]he State's constructive notice – what the State reasonably
should have known
. at 254; emphasis in original). The
Court of Appeals emphasized, however, that the required actual or constructive
notice analysis does not equate to a mandate for "unremitting surveillance in
all circumstances" and that "[t]he mere occurrence of an inmate assault, without
credible evidence that the assault was reasonably foreseeable, cannot establish
the negligence of the State." (Id
. at 256).
Based upon the foregoing, the court is satisfied that the claimant has failed
to sustain his burden of proof of establishing that the State knew or should
have known that the claimant was at risk of being assaulted and yet failed to
provide reasonable protection. Furthermore, on this record there is nothing
which indicates that the State knew or should have known that the assailant was
prone to perpetrating an assault and that the State did not take proper
precautionary measures to protect claimant from same. Furthermore, this record
does not establish that the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene
but did not act. To the contrary, there is nothing in this record which
indicates that the claimant could identify his assailant or that the State had
any knowledge that either the claimant was prone to assault or that his attacker
"was prone to perpetrating" the same. Moreover, it is clear to the court that
the State responded promptly as soon as the altercation commenced and quelled
the disturbance in a reasonable manner and fashion.
Additionally, the court finds claimant's testimony lacking in credibility,
regarding his role in this incident as well as the role of Inmate Mytias,
particularly in light of the testimony offered by the correction officers at the
Based upon the foregoing, the State's motion to dismiss made at the close of
the claimant's case on which the court previously reserved is now granted.
Consequently, Claim No. 94526 should be and hereby is DISMISSED.
ENTER JUDGMENT ACCORDINGLY.