New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-019-511, Claim No. 108540, Motion No. M-67834


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: G. Lawrence Dillon, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 29, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


In lieu of an answer, the State of New York (hereinafter "State") moves to dismiss this claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (2) and (8) alleging a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, opposes the motion.

In this claim, claimant alleges that he entered the State correctional system on or about September 10, 2001 and "[w]as later diagnosed with Hepititis [sic] 'C'". (Claim, ¶ 2). Thereafter, claimant alleges that his requests for medical treatment of his condition were ignored. Claimant also alleges that he did not receive the vaccinations for Hepatitis "A" and "B", which he has since contracted as well. This claim was filed with the Clerk of the Court on November 19, 2003 and served on the Office of the Attorney General by certified mail, return receipt requested, on November 21, 2003. (Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon, AAG, ¶ 4). The claim alleges an accrual date of November 14, 2003.

By way of this motion, the State contends that this claim should be dismissed because it "[f]ails to state any theory of liability upon which the State could arguably be held responsible." (Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon, AAG, ¶ 2). More specifically, the State argues that the essence of the claim is claimant's allegations of violations of his constitutional Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The State asserts that violations of the United States Constitution are beyond the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.

The court's function on a motion to dismiss is to determine whether the claimant possesses a cause of action, not simply whether he has stated one.[1] The court must "[a]ccept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true, accord [claimant] the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory [citations omitted]." (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 87-88).

First, the State is correct that the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction over violations of the United States Constitution nor is the defendant amenable to suit under 42 USC § 1983. (Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172, 184; Ferrer v State of New York, 172 Misc 2d 1, 5). As such, this claim is dismissed to the extent it asserts violations of the Eighth Amendment and 42 USC § 1983.

However, it is well-settled that absent prejudice to the defendant, the court must liberally construe pleadings. (CPLR 3026). Here, the claim describes the nature of the claim as follows:
I have a right to reasonable and adequate medical care, therefore this is a violation of my eight amendment rights. This is also a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. It's also cruel and unusual punishment. Correction Law Section 70 imposes a duty on the Department of Correctional Services to operate it's [sic] prison's [sic] with due regard for the health of it's [sic] prisoners.

(Claim, ¶ 2).

The court finds that a liberal reading of the claim, together with claimant's opposing papers, leads to the inescapable conclusion that claimant was also attempting to include allegations of negligence, medical malpractice and deliberate indifference to medical needs. (Smith v State of New York, Ct Cl, June 6, 2001, Sise, J., Claim No. 103396, Motion No. M-63231 [UID No. 2001-028-0535).[2] Accordingly, the question thus becomes whether this claim contains allegations sufficient to sustain those causes of action. Specifically, claimant has alleged that the State failed to provide treatment for his Hepatitis "C" condition and that the State's failure to provide him vaccinations for Hepatitis "A" and "B" left him susceptible to and caused him to contract those as well. This court finds that these allegations are sufficient to plead causes of action for negligence, medical malpractice and deliberate indifference to medical needs. (Id.).

Consequently, for the reasons stated above, it is ORDERED that the State's motion to dismiss, Motion No. M-67834, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART in accordance with the foregoing.

January 29, 2004
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion.
  1. Claim, filed November 19, 2003.
  2. "Pre-Answer Motion to Dismiss Claim", Motion No. M-67834, dated December 15, 2003, and filed December 22, 2003.
  3. Affirmation of G. Lawrence Dillon, AAG, in support of motion, dated December 15, 2003.
  4. "Reply: To Pre-Answer Motion to Dismiss" of Robert Johnson, in opposition to motion, dated December 23, 2003, and filed December 30, 2003.

[1]The court declines to treat the motion as one for summary judgment as suggested by the State.
[2]Unreported decisions from the Court of Claims are available via the Internet at