New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MILLER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-031-501, Claim No. 103447


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:
New York State Attorney General
BY: TIMOTHY P. MULVEY, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 29, 2004

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Arthur Miller ("Claimant") filed claim number 103447 on November 30, 2000, alleging that, on July 29, 2000, he slipped and fell in the Media Center locker room at Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn"). Claimant alleges that Defendant failed to keep the locker room in a reasonably safe condition. Claimant also sets forth a cause of action sounding in medical malpractice, relating to Defendant's alleged failure to treat his resulting injuries.[1]
I conducted a trial on this matter on September 26, 2003 at Auburn.
Claimant testified that on July 29, 2000, he had been exiting the showers and entering the locker room area of Auburn's Media Center when he slipped in a puddle of water and fell to the floor. According to Claimant, in this fall, he injured his back, hit his head, and a fire extinguisher hanging from a pillar in the same area of the locker room fell onto and injured his left foot. Claimant was unsure of the exact sequence of events, but was certain he was on the floor and lying on his back when the fire extinguisher fell on his foot. Exhibit 3 consists of pictures of Claimant's foot injury and they show a pronounced bump on the top of his left foot. According to Claimant, flooding in the locker room occurs quite often as the showers are used throughout the day, but this area is only mopped at the end of each day. Claimant testified that there were no "wet floor" signs or any floor mats to help reduce the hazard.

On cross-examination, Claimant testified that he played basketball at the Media Center three to four times each week and had been incarcerated at Auburn for three years at the time of the accident. Also, he stated he was familiar with the layout of the shower and locker room area.

Correction Officer Raymond Erb testified that he was on duty the day of the accident and was sitting in the office in the locker room. He observed Claimant's fall and states Claimant was wearing a towel around his waist, but was unsure whether or not Claimant wore footwear. Officer Erb stated that Claimant bumped into the fire extinguisher on the wall after he slipped and on his way down to the floor. Officer Erb claims that there was no water in the area where Claimant fell, nor was there ever a problem of flooding in the locker room/shower area, although it could, at times, be what he characterized as "wet".

Auburn's Fire and Safety Officer, James Buehler, then testified regarding Claimant's allegation that the fire extinguisher that fell on his foot was not properly secured to the wall. Officer Buehler stated that it is the Correction Officer's duty to inspect the fire extinguisher at the start of each shift and to fill out the "Daily Safety Checklist." Buehler testified that, although it is possible that physical contact could unintentionally dislodge the fire extinguisher from its cradle, he could not say how much force it would take to cause such an event. He further testified that the fire extinguisher had been installed pursuant to the manufacturer's instructions. Exhibit B is a photograph of the fire extinguisher. There appears to be a bracket bolted to the cement and the fire extinguisher is hung on the bracket by a hook at the top. It clearly requires an upward force to dislodge it from its cradle, but I do see how it could have come off the wall if Claimant bumped into it when he fell. It also appears from the picture admitted as Exhibit D that, when Claimant exited the shower, he had to walk through and then across the locker area to get to the office and the area where he fell - well away from the source of the water and alleged flooding, the showers.

It may well have been that the immediate area around the showers was wet. However, I have no evidence that supports the allegation that the area in front of the office was wet, let alone flooded. In fact, on cross-examination, Claimant admits that he did not see any water in the area where he fell. The record is also barren of any support for the claim that the fire extinguisher was improperly mounted to the wall.

It is well established that "[t]he State - just as any other party . . . is responsible, in the operation and management of its schools, hospitals and other institutions, only for hazards reasonably to be foreseen, only for risks reasonably to be perceived" (
Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342, 346 [citations omitted]) and with respect to the safety of persons on its property, the duty of the State is one of reasonable care under the circumstances (see Miller v State of New York, 62 NY2d 506). However, the State is not an insurer of the safety of its premises and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (see Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850, 851; Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874).
In order to establish liability in a slip and fall case, Claimant must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that a dangerous condition existed; that the State either created this dangerous condition, or had actual or constructive notice of the condition and failed to correct the problem within a reasonable period of time; and that this dangerous condition was a proximate cause of the accident (
Goldman v Waldbaum, Inc., 297 AD2d 277; Dapp v Larson, 240 AD2d 918).
Upon the record before me in this matter, I find that Claimant has failed to establish either that a dangerous condition existed or, assuming that one did, that Defendant had notice of such dangerous condition. The area where Claimant fell was relatively distant from the shower area, and no previous problem concerning pooling water in that area was identified. Likewise, with regard to the fire extinguisher, the record demonstrates that it was mounted to the wall in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications, and there was no indication that there had ever been a problem with the fire extinguisher becoming dislodged and falling from the wall. Consequently, Claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence. Accordingly, his claim is dismissed. All motions on which I previously reserved decision are hereby denied.


January 29, 2004
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]Claimant failed to submit any proof regarding the alleged medical malpractice. Significantly, Claimant failed to provide expert testimony that Defendant's conduct deviated from the requisite standard of care regarding the injuries sustained from his fall in the Media Center. The medical malpractice portion of his claim is dismissed (Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653, lv denied 91 NY2d 810).