Steve Williamson, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 104505 that
Defendant's agents failed to provide him with adequate medical care while he was
in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services
(hereafter DOCS) incarcerated at Downstate Correctional Facility (hereafter
Downstate). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on
February 27, 2004.
Claimant testified that on January 29, 1998 he first entered Downstate and was
tested for tuberculosis (TB). He advised medical personnel at that time that he
had "tested positive for it in Florida and received treatment there for six
Although he told medical personnel at Downstate that the Florida caregivers had
said he shouldn't be required to be tested again because it would "come up
positive," the Downstate employees said they "did not care, and that the State
of New York. . . . [did] not have . . . [him] on record."
Claimant said that DOCS simply refused to accept that he had been tested and
treated, and thus forced him, first at Downstate and later at Attica
Correctional Facility, to suffer invasive testing for TB that would inevitably
show positive. He said he suffers from headaches and nausea from the test.
When he produced his medical records from Florida, he alleged DOCS medical
personnel refused to take them, and he was threatened with disciplinary
proceedings if he didn't subject himself to the test.
Claimant said he filed a grievance, and the records were accepted some time
thereafter. He said that it is a DOCS policy that inmates who have tested
positive previously may be exempt from further testing, yet he was forced to
take the test for four (4) years because medical personnel would not accept his
documentation. Because of this, he alleges, he suffered personal injury and was
damaged in the amount of $15,000.00.
Claimant submitted in evidence part of his ambulatory health record (hereafter
AHR) which includes the testing dates [Exhibit 1]; his medical records from
Florida [Exhibit 2]; and a copy of the DOCS health services policy dated May 14,
2001 concerning tuberculosis [Exhibit 3].
On cross-examination, Claimant conceded that the last testing and treatment he
had received for TB had been in 1992 as shown in the Florida records. Claimant
reiterated that despite the six- year gap in time between the Florida testing
and treatment, and his commitment to DOCS custody, he should not have been
tested at all. Claimant also confirmed that when DOCS tested him, he tested
negative three (3) times, and then tested positive the fourth time.
No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.
"It is fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and
adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons," including proper diagnosis
Rivers v State of New York
, 159 AD2d 788, 789 (3d Dept 1990), lv
76 NY2d 701 (1990).
In a medical malpractice claim, the Claimant has the burden of proof and must
prove (1) a deviation or departure from accepted practice and (2) evidence that
such deviation was the proximate cause of the injury or other damage. A cause
of action is premised in medical malpractice when it is the medical treatment,
or the lack of it, that is in issue. A Claimant must establish that the medical
caregiver either did not possess or did not use reasonable care or best judgment
in applying the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners in the
field. The " ‘claimant must [demonstrate] . . . that the physician
deviated from accepted medical practice and that the alleged deviation
proximately caused his . . . injuries' (
Parker v State of New York
, 242 AD2d 785, 786)." Auger v State of New
, 263 AD2d 929, 931 (3d Dept 1999). Without such medical proof, no
viable claim giving rise to liability on the part of the State can be sustained.
Hale v State of New York
, 53 AD2d 1025 (4th Dept 1976), lv denied
40 NY2d 804 (1976). A medical expert's testimony is necessary to establish, at a
minimum, the standard of care. Spensieri v Lasky
, 94 NY2d 231
If a claim can be read to allege simple negligence, or medical negligence, then
the alleged negligent omissions or acts by the State's employees can be readily
determined by a fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity of
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center
, 114 AD2d 254, 256 (1st
Dept 1986). Similarly, the State may be found liable for ministerial neglect if
its employees fail to comply with an institution's own administrative procedures
and protocols for dispensing medical care to inmates. Kagan v State of New
, 221 AD2d 7, 10 (2d Dept 1996).
In this case, only the testimony of the Claimant has been presented in support
of any claim of malpractice. No competent medical evidence was presented,
through a treating physician or an expert witness whose opinion was based upon
the available medical records, to support the allegation of medical malpractice.
There is no medical evidence on any medical issue and thus no proof that
accepted standards of care were not met. Accordingly, any claim of medical
malpractice must be dismissed.
Additionally, from this record there is no indication that the actions of
medical caregivers amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect.
Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center
; Kagan v
State of New York
, supra; cf. Jacaruso v State of New York
Claim No. 97721 (Lebous, J., filed September 9, 2002). The regulations
concerning procedures for taking care of inmates afflicted with tuberculosis and
other contagious diseases are clearly of an ameliorative nature, designed to
assure the health of the inmates tested and treated as well as fellow inmates.
It would belie common sense to assert that once tested and treated, an
individual should never be tested again when such dangerous communicable
diseases are involved. Whatever side effect may have been suffered - and
Claimant mentioned only some nausea and a headache, assuming these were even
related to testing for TB - is far outweighed by the beneficial effect of
assuring the health of the prison population.
Once the Florida records were made part of the New York State records, a fact
noted in the AHR supplied [
Exhibit 1], medical personnel would then exercise whatever discretion
is appropriate in the treatment of the patient who was last tested in 1992, and
apparently did so. There has been no showing of any harm related to
discretionary determinations made by medical caregivers. Therefore, to the
extent the claim can be read to assert such theories, any cause of action for
negligence or ministerial neglect is also dismissed.
Claimant has failed to establish his claim by a preponderance of the credible
evidence and therefore Claim Number 104505 is dismissed in its entirety.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.