New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RIVERA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-019-019, Claim No. 106263


Claimant failed to establish that correction officers tightened waist chain so severely as to cause injury or that there was a delay of medical treatment relating to any resulting injuries. Claim 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:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
September 15, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, Jose Rivera, brings this claim alleging he was injured due to the negligence of correction officers while in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services while at the Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility") on August 5, 2001. This claim was tried on August 23, 2004 at the Elmira Correctional Facility.

The court finds that on August 5, 2001, claimant was placed in a set of waist chain restraints in order to be returned to his cell after recreation. Claimant alleges that Correction Officers Robinson and Cassleberry applied waist chains negligently by tightening them so severely that by the time he was returned to his cell the chains had caused lacerations on both the left and the right side of his body just above the hips which resulted in scarring, which was visible to the court at trial.

Claimant alleged that he complained to the correction officers but the chains were not loosened. Claimant further alleges that as a result of this injury he was in dire need of emergency medical attention and that despite at least three requests he was denied any treatment for at least 2 1/2 hours before he was allowed to be seen by the Facility nurse. Claimant testified that the scarring on his sides is now permanent, and made him fearful that other inmates, believing that these injuries may have been caused during the course of a prison rape, may make him a target for future sexual assaults. Claimant testified that he will not remove his shirt while in the Facility, is embarrassed by the scarring and suffers from mental anguish as a result of the same.

The State called Correction Officer James Cassleberry, a 17 1/2 year veteran of the Department of Correctional Services. Officer Cassleberry testified that he was working on August 5, 2001 and applied the handcuffs and waist chain to claimant. He testified that in this case, as he always does, he applied the waste chain securely so it cannot be pulled down below the hips and then used as a weapon against either other inmates or officers. Further, Officer Cassleberry testified he always feels the tension when locking waist chains into place to make sure that the chain is not too tight.

The State also called Nurse Karen Dyal who testified that on August 5, 2001, at approximately 3:45 p.m., she was called to claimant's cell. Upon arriving at the cell she spoke with claimant who stated that he was sore around the waist and his entire waist was inflamed due to the improperly adjusted waist chains. Nurse Dyal testified that it appeared to her at that time as if the inmate had rubbed the waist chain around his waist and had rubbed himself raw. He was advised to keep his waist clean and dry and was given Bacitracin and Advil until the chafing healed. Nurse Dyal testified at trial that in her opinion, claimant's injury was no more serious than a "skinned knee"[1]
and was basically just chafing and rubbing of the skin which ultimately led to the scarring on either side of the claimant's waist above the hips.

Based upon the foregoing, the court is satisfied that there was no credible proof that the injury caused to the claimant here was caused by the correction officers. Rather, the court believes that the claimant caused his own injuries by twisting and turning, thereby chafing himself in an attempt to cause personal injury. Furthermore, the injury as described by Nurse Dyal and in the Ambulatory Health Record, shows that the injury sustained was in fact no more than chafing or a scrape along the waist and as such claimant's allegations of denial of emergency medical treatment are unfounded. (St. Ex. A). In fact, the court finds that the treatment and attention the claimant received for this injury including Bacitracin and Advil- within 2 1/2 hours - was more than reasonable.

Accordingly, based upon the foregoing Claim No. 106263 should be and hereby is DISMISSED.


September 15, 2004
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the court's trial notes.