New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WIGFALL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-019-550, Claim No. 106859, Motion Nos. M-68037, M-68394


Synopsis


Claimant's motion to compel discovery is denied as moot; Claimant's motion for sanctions is denied, while request for return of medical authorization form is granted.

Case Information

UID:
2004-019-550
Claimant(s):
JOSEPH WIGFALL
Claimant short name:
WIGFALL
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
106859
Motion number(s):
M-68037, M-68394
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
JOSEPH WIGFALL, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: James E. Shoemaker, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 21, 2004
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

This is an adjourned return date on claimant's motion for an order compelling a response to his discovery demands (M-68037). Additionally, claimant has since filed another motion in which he seeks sanctions against the assistant attorney general in charge of his case and permission to revoke his medical authorization form (M-68394). The State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes both motions.

A brief review of the discovery history in this case is warranted. This claim arises from claimant's allegations regarding New York State Department of Correctional Services employees preventing him from wearing his prescription sunglasses despite a medical permit to do so. Claimant served the State with a discovery demand dated September 30, 2003. After receiving no response from the State for two months, claimant sent a letter to the State dated November 5, 2003 requesting a response to his first demand. Still hearing no response, claimant then sent a second discovery demand dated December 21, 2003. After more time passed without a response, claimant filed Motion No. M-68037, seeking an order compelling a response to his discovery demands on February 17, 2004. The State's response to the motion contained, among other things, a request for a 120-day adjournment. By way of Decision and Order, this court granted the State's request for a 120-day adjournment (until June 9, 2004) of this matter in order to allow the exchange of a medical authorization form between the parties and subsequent preparation of supplemental discovery responses in connection thereto. (Wigfall v State of New York, Ct Cl, March 24, 2004, Lebous, J., Claim No. 106859, Motion No. M-68037 [UID No. 2004-019-530]).[1] As part of said Decision and Order, the parties were instructed to keep the court advised, in writing, as to the progress of discovery and/or make whatever supplemental submissions, if any, to the court they deemed necessary in order to address any discovery issues remaining after the State's responses thereto.


Motion No. M-68037

The court has received no subsequent submissions from either party specifically addressing the substance of the State's discovery responses other than claimant's objections to the requirement that he pay for photocopying costs which will be discussed below. Rather, the only subsequent submissions relate to claimant's motion for sanctions and return of his medical authorization form and the State's response thereto. Consequently, it appears that the State has responded to claimant's prior discovery demands and, as such, claimant's initial motion to compel a response thereto will be denied as moot.


Motion No. M-68394

Claimant's second motion seeks various forms of relief including an order directing the following: striking the State's answer; sanctioning the assistant attorney general by requiring him to produce a complete copy of claimant's medical chart at his expense; and issuing a "stay on authorization form." (Claimant's Affidavit).


By way of background, claimant's second discovery demand sought various medical records from his file, as well as copies of his "[m]edical chart from January 1, 1996, up until September 12, 2003, in (illegible) in complete order, and dates in numerical order and chronological order." (Claimant's Discovery Demand filed December 24, 2003, ¶ ¶ 3, 4, & 8). The State's discovery response to these requests stated: "[t]his information would be contained in claimant's medical records which cannot be obtained without a proper medical authorization. Defendant has recently sent claimant discovery demands. Included in the discovery demands is an authorization for release and disclosure of health information. After claimant signs and returns the document to the defendant, claimant will be required to pay the reproduction costs for medical records of 25¢ per page." (State's Response to Discovery Demand filed March 15, 2004, ¶ ¶ 3, 4, & 8).


Claimant did not return the authorization form at first. The State then sent claimant a letter reminding him that he would need to sign the medical authorization form and stated, in part, as follows: "[p]lease be advised that if I do not receive the authorization within a reasonable period of time, the defendant will move to dismiss your claim." (Letter from James E. Shoemaker, AAG dated March 24, 2004 and annexed as an exhibit to claimant's affidavit in support of M-68394). Claimant signed the form before a notary public on March 12, 2004 and returned the form to the State.[2]


Now, by way of this motion, claimant argues that he has subsequently researched the issue and finds no basis for the State's threat that his claim would be dismissed if he failed to return the signed authorization form. Further, claimant now seeks to retract that authorization form (or so the court interprets his request for a "stay of authorization") arguing that the State misled him into believing that he had to sign the form or else his claim would be dismissed. The State indicates in its response hereto that it will await further instruction on how to proceed by the court prior to obtaining claimant's medical records using said authorization form. However, the State does note that if the records are obtained it has the right to charge claimant for the photocopying charge which it has been advised is $197.25 for 789 pages (25¢ per page).


First and foremost, the court finds that the assistant attorney general's letter dated March 24, 2004 does not warrant sanctions since the State may well have a basis for dismissal in the event claimant is unable to produce any medical records in support of his claim or is unwilling to allow the State access to the same. That having been said, however, the court need not issue any decision on that issue since there is no such motion currently before the court.


Next, in this court's view, claimant has the option of retracting his signed medical authorization form if he so chooses according to the terms thereof. (Exhibit to claimant's reply). However, that being the case, then claimant's corresponding discovery demands in which he sought copies of his medical chart must be stricken as well. As such, the corresponding demands contained in claimant's discovery demand dated December 21, 2003, specifically ¶ ¶ 3, 4, and 8, are stricken. The State is directed to return the original medical authorization form to claimant. In the event claimant wishes to obtain his medical records in the future, he may request another medical authorization form from the State, subject to the State's right to require claimant to pay reasonable photocopying costs in advance of producing demanded discovery documents. (Gittens v State of New York, 175 AD2d 530).


Accordingly, in view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED that Motion No. M-68037 is DENIED AS MOOT; and Motion No. M-68394 is DENIED IN PART with respect to sanctions and GRANTED IN PART in accordance with the foregoing.


June 21, 2004
Binghamton, New York
HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The court has considered the following papers in connection with these motions:
  1. Claim, filed October 31, 2002.
  2. Discovery Demands, filed October 3, 2003.
  3. Discovery Demands, filed December 24, 2003.
  4. Notice of Motion No. M-68037, dated February 9, 2004, and filed February 17, 2004.
  5. Affidavit of Joseph Wigfall, in support of Motion No. M-68037, sworn to February 11, 2004, with attached exhibits.
  6. Affirmation of James E. Shoemaker, AAG, in opposition to Motion No. M-68037, dated March 8, 2004, and filed March 10, 2004, with attached exhibit.
  7. Response to Discovery Demand, filed March 15, 2004.
  8. DECISION AND ORDER, Lebous, J., Claim No. 106859, Motion No. M-68037, filed March 24, 2004.
  9. "Affirmation Reply Answer to Defendant's Motion of Opposition to Claimant's [sic] to Compel Disclosure", of Joseph Wigfall, in support of Motion No. M-68037, dated March 22, 2004, filed March 25, 2004, with attachment.
  10. Notice of Motion No. M-68394, dated April 16, 2004, and filed April 28, 2004.
  11. Affidavit of Joseph Wigfall, in support of Motion No. M-68394, unsworn to, and dated April 16, 2004, with attachment.
  12. Affirmation of James E. Shoemaker, AAG, in opposition to Motion Nos. M-68037 and M-68394, dated June 3, 2004, and filed June 7, 2004.

[1]Unreported decisions from the Court of Claims are available via the Internet at
[2]Based solely on the dates of the authorization form (sworn to March 12, 2004) and the State's letter requesting its return (dated March 24, 2004) it is not entirely clear whether claimant had already returned the form to the State prior to his receipt of the State's follow-up letter. Nevertheless, for purposes of this motion, the court will presume that claimant returned the form based upon the State's "threat" of motion practice.