New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ORTIZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-019-533, Claim No. 106855, Motion No. M-67931


Case Information

KATHERINE V. ORTIZ Individually, as Guardian of Nateonna Juanita Roland, and as Administratrix of the Estate of Nathaniel S. Roland, Deceased
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:
ALTREUTER HABERMEHL, ESQS.BY: Mary Penn, Esq., of counsel
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 5, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimants previously moved for an order compelling a response to a Notice for Discovery and Inspection dated October 21, 2003 pursuant to CPLR 3124. In a Decision and Order dated February 5, 2004, the State of New York (hereinafter "State") was directed to submit to the court the documents at issue for an in camera inspection. (Ortiz v State of New York, Ct Cl, February 5, 2004, Lebous, J., Claim No. 106855, Motion No. M-67931 [UID No. 2004-019-514]).[1] In accordance with said Decision and Order, the State has now supplied the discovery documents for the court's in camera inspection including one copy in unredacted form and the second copy redacted in a manner which the State believes presents information relevant to this claim while removing privileged or irrelevant information.

As a brief review, this claim arises from the death of Nathaniel S. Roland during his incarceration at Elmira Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Elmira") after he was fatally attacked by another inmate, Luis Santiago, on March 7, 2002. The theory of liability asserted in this claim is one of negligent supervision, namely that the State failed to protect the decedent and knew or should have known that decedent was at risk and that inmate Santiago had violent propensities. (Claim, ¶ 3).

The discovery documents provided to the court and discussed herein are as follows: (1) inmate Santiago's disciplinary history (hereinafter "Santiago's Disciplinary History"); (2) a handwritten statement by inmate Santiago dated March 8, 2002 (hereinafter "Santiago Statement"); (3) an e-mail from Assistant Commissioner Wayne J. Wilhelm dated April 30, 2002 (hereinafter "Wilhelm E-mail"); and (4) an inmate overview and classification analysis (hereinafter "Inmate Overview"). The State also submitted to the court memorandums from Sergeant Perry and Captain Colvin dated May 1, 2002 and May 2, 2002, respectively, in order to place the aforementioned Wilhelm E-mail into context. However, the State indicates that it has already provided the Perry and Colvin memorandums to claimant and, as such, the court need not address those memorandums. (Letter from Joseph F. Romani, AAG to the court dated March 15, 2004).

The court has completed an in camera review of the aforesaid documents and finds as follows:

1. Santiago's Disciplinary History

The State's objections to producing Santiago's Disciplinary History were stated in terms of privacy, confidentiality, and relevancy concerns, as well as a concern regarding jeopardizing pending investigations by both the State Police and Chemung County District Attorney's Office regarding possible homicide charges, as well as grand jury action. (Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, ¶ 8).

A review of Santiago's Disciplinary History reveals various disciplinary incidents dating from August 29, 1994 to January 4, 2002, two months prior to this incident. With respect to Santiago's violent disciplinary history while incarcerated, this court previously found such incidents relevant on the issue of notice to the State of inmate Santiago's violent propensities and, as such, should be produced. The State, however, has proposed redactions to Santiago's Disciplinary History which would delete approximately thirteen incidents. The types of incidents sought to be redacted by the State from Santiago's Disciplinary History include the following charges: out of place, count violation, direct order, unhygienic act, lewd exposure, contraband, arson, and tampering with property. In this court's view, these remaining incidents may well be relevant to the issues at hand to the extent they are part of inmate Santiago's overall course of behavior while incarcerated. In short, the court finds the State's proposed redactions of these remaining thirteen incidents are better suited to arguments post trial on the ultimate weight to be accorded to these incidents, rather than their relevancy or admissibility in the first instance. Consequently, the court finds that the Santiago's Disciplinary History should be produced by the State in its entirety in unredacted form.

2. Santiago Statement

The Santiago Statement is a four-page handwritten statement or "Report of Interview" by inmate Santiago to the State's Inspector General's office on March 8, 2002. The State's prior papers do not contain any specific objections addressed to Santiago's Statement nor has the State deleted any portion thereof in the proposed redacted version submitted to the court. In any event, the court has reviewed Santiago's Statement and finds the same to be material and relevant. As such, the court finds that the Santiago Statement should be produced by the State in its entirety in unredacted form.

3. Wilhelm E-mail

The Wilhelm E-mail is a copy of an e-mail correspondence sent from Assistant Commissioner Wayne J. Wilhelm to then Superintendent Floyd Bennett dated April 30, 2002. The Wilhelm E-mail was the stimulus for the follow-up memorandums dated May 1, 2002 from Captain Colvin and May 2, 2002 from Sergeant Perry which the State has already provided to claimant. The Wilhelm E-mail lists six areas of concern following this incident.

As previously noted, the State has represented that it has already provided claimant with a copy of the memoranda from Sgt. Perry dated May 1, 2002 (hereinafter "Perry Memo"). A closer review of the Perry Memo reveals that it is a point-by-point response to the issues raised in the Wilhelm E-mail. As such, the court finds that the Wilhelm E-mail is relevant on the issue of whether the State exercised adequate care to prevent that which was reasonably foreseeable. The court finds the State's concerns relative to institutional safety and security to be unavailing in view of its prior disclosure of the Perry Memo. Finally, the court finds the State's proposed redactions unnecessary in light of the discussion on those very issues in the Perry Memo. That having been said, however, that is not to say that the State will be prevented from arguing the ultimate weight to be accorded any of these documents at trial. Consequently, the court finds that the Wilhelm E-mail should be produced by the State in its entirety in unredacted form.

4. Inmate Overview

The State has also submitted a five-page computer generated Inmate Overview and Classification Analysis for in camera review. The court finds that this document includes a summary of inmate Santiago's background leading up to his incarceration in 1993. The court finds that a narrative of events leading up to Santiago's incarceration is not relevant on the issue at hand here, namely the State's notice of inmate Santiago's violent propensities during incarceration. To find otherwise, would support a conclusion that the State is on notice that every inmate entering the state system due to a violent criminal conviction is prone to violence while incarcerated. As such, the court finds that claimant's motion to compel the production of the inmate Santiago's Inmate Overview and Classification Analysis is denied.

The Chief Clerk of the Court is directed to seal and preserve both sets of documents (redacted and unredacted) provided to the court for this in camera inspection in the event of possible appellate review.

Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED that claimant's motion, No. M-67931, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART in accordance with the foregoing. The State is directed to provide the aforementioned discovery documents to claimant's counsel within 45 days of the date of filing of this Decision & Order.

April 5, 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 October 31, 2002.
  2. DECISION AND ORDER, Lebous, J., Claim No. 106855, Motion No. M-67931, dated February 5, 2004, and filed February 11, 2004.
  3. Letter from Joseph F. Romani, AAG, to court, dated March 15, 2004 and received by the court March 16, 2004.
  4. Documents for in camera inspection.

[1]Unreported decisions from the Court of Claims are available via the Internet at