Richard Hawley, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 106271 that
Defendant's agents negligently caused him to suffer personal injury while he was
an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility (hereafter Downstate) because of a
dangerous condition in the storage room of the Downstate officers' mess hall.
Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on April 23,
Claimant testified that on March 21, 2002 he was working in the officer's mess
hall in Downstate when he was sent to the back to get another jar of honey from
the storage room. He slipped on something. As he tried to break his fall, he
grabbed onto a rack of shelves containing jars of other food stuffs. The shelf
shook and a glass jar full of olives fell to the ground. He then fell on the
broken glass. He did not recall anything that occurred thereafter, except being
taken to the facility infirmary. He suffered what is now a permanent scar on
On cross-examination, Claimant confirmed that he had been working dispensing
coffee and tea in the officers' mess hall as his job assignment for
approximately two weeks, but had worked in the mess hall in one capacity or
another for some time. Claimant could not say what he slipped on as an initial
matter, but did notice the broken glass, and water and olives after he had
fallen. On that day he had been in the storage room earlier and had not noticed
anything on the floor. Had anything been present on the floor earlier, rules
and regulations would have required that he advise a porter so that it could be
cleaned up. The storage room itself has a door that is always ajar and there is
no one assigned to guard the door.
No other witnesses testified and no evidence was submitted.
Although the State has a duty to protect inmates from foreseeable risks of
harm, it is not the insurer of inmate safety. Its duty is to exercise
"reasonable care under the circumstances . . ." [
Basso v Miller
, 40 NY2d 233, 241 (1976) (citation omitted
protect against foreseeable risks of harm. Assuming that the State did not
create the dangerous condition, a Claimant must show that the State had actual
or constructive notice of the condition and failed to act reasonably to remedy
it. Gordon v American Museum of Natural History
, 67 NY2d 836, 837
(1986). Creation of a dangerous condition constitutes actual notice. Lewis
v Metropolitan Transportation Auth
., 99 AD2d 246, 249 (1st Dept 1984),
64 NY2d 670 (1984).
With respect to constructive notice, any
". . . defect must be visible and apparent and it must exist for a sufficient
length of time prior to the accident to permit . . . [a defendant] to discover
and remedy it . . . (citation omitted
)." Gordon v American Museum of
, 67 NY2d at 837.
Claimant presented as a credible individual, who was performing a simple task
as part of his job assignment in the officers' mess hall when he slipped on
something he could not identify in the storage room. Unfortunately, it is only
those foreseeable dangerous conditions which are not remedied within a
reasonable time which may establish liability on the State's part
], assuming that proximate cause and actual damages are proven as
well. Claimant has failed to show what dangerous condition there was, that the
Defendant had been aware of the dangerous condition and thus had actual notice
in order to have an opportunity to cure the defect, or that the Defendant should
have been aware of a dangerous condition.
Accordingly, Defendant's motion to dismiss based upon Claimant's failure to
case, and upon which the Court reserved decision at the close
of trial, is hereby granted, and Claim Number 106271 is hereby dismissed in its
In addition to the cause of action arising out of his fall, the claim further
arguably alleges a cause of action arising out of Claimant's placement in
protective custody. No evidence was presented at trial on this cause of action.
Consequently, the cause of action is dismissed.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.