Ray Williams filed claim number 105129 on October 26, 2001, alleging that the
State of New York was negligent in failing to remedy a dangerous condition in
the Cayuga Correctional Facility ("Cayuga") gymnasium that caused him to slip
and fall on October 27, 2000. I conducted a trial on this matter on September
23, 2004, at Auburn Correctional Facility.
The following individuals testified: Claimant Ray Williams, Correction Officer
William May from Cayuga and Recreational Program Leader II Martin Raftis from
Having reviewed the evidence presented and weighed the testimony given, and
upon due deliberation I now make the following findings of fact:
Claimant testified that on October 27, 2000, he was in the gymnasium using a
heavy punching bag that was torn and that material had leaked out of the bag and
onto the gymnasium floor. Claimant did not see what he described as "gray
woolly material" on the floor when he started to use the heavy bag. Claimant
testified that he had been using the heavy bag for approximately two minutes and
had not yet started to perspire when he slipped on the gray woolly material and
fell onto the gymnasium floor. Claimant did not see the approximately two to
three handfuls of dark gray woolly cloth material that was scattered under and
around the heavy bag until after his fall. Claimant did not notice any
perspiration on the floor after his fall and Claimant claims that Correction
Officer May did not come near him or the heavy bag after his fall.
Due to his fall, Claimant asserts that he incurred a concussion and a
laceration above his left eye that resulted in a one and a half inch permanent
visible scar. Claimant's CAT scan results were negative, but he continued to
receive follow-up care at the infirmary which included EKG procedures for the
blackouts that he allegedly continued to experience for approximately two years
after the incident.
Claimant testified that he had asked an unidentified civilian in the gymnasium
for the heavy bag to be replaced about two weeks prior to the incident but that
he had not alerted any correction officers to the condition of the bag.
Claimant stated that he was with other unidentified inmates when they had asked
unidentified correction officers when the bag would be replaced.
Correction Officer William May testified that he was a gymnasium activity rover
at the time of the incident. Correction Officer May observed Claimant punching
the bag, saw his feet come up from under him and watched him hit his head on the
radiator. He stated he approached the Claimant and observed what appeared to be
perspiration on the floor near the heavy bag. He testified that he did not
notice any material from the heavy bag on the floor after the incident, nor did
he observe any material leaking from the bag in the days prior to the incident.
Claimant had not reported any problems with the heavy bag to him prior to the
incident. Correction Officer May stated that no other inmates had complained to
him about material leaking from the heavy bag and that he had not seen any other
inmates slip or fall around the heavy bag in his four years working in that
Recreational Program Leader II Martin Raftis testified that he had worked in
his position for five years and that he had other civilian employees who worked
under him. The civilian employees ran the gymnasium but the correction officers
were there to watch over the inmates. Mr. Raftis testified that he had not been
aware of any material leaking from the heavy bag and was unaware of any moisture
problems accumulating around the heavy bag in the gymnasium. Mr. Raftis did not
recall any roof leaks or maintenance problems that would have resulted in
moisture accumulating on the floor around the heavy bag.
Mr. Raftis testified about different safety measures that were in place
regarding inmates' use of the gymnasium. He stated that there was a policy
which prohibited street footwear in the gymnasium. In this regard, inmates were
required to carry sneakers with them and change into the sneakers before
entering the gymnasium. Inmate porters dust mopped the gymnasium floor prior to
each shift and an officer would go through and perform a fire and safety check
prior to each shift. If there had been dark gray woolly material on the floor,
it would have been brought to the attention of the civilian staff. Mr. Raftis
also stated that either he or his staff performed a daily inspection of the
equipment for safety. Mr. Raftis was unaware of being notified by any inmates,
correction officer, or civilian employee that a problem existed with the heavy
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
, 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
Claimant has not demonstrated, by a preponderance of the credible evidence,
that a dangerous condition existed. Correction Officer May did not see any dark
gray woolly material from the heavy bag on the floor prior to or after the
incident, and Recreational Program Leader II Martin Raftis, who was responsible
for daily inspections, was not aware of any problems with the heavy bag.
Further, the State had safety procedures in place, which required all inmates to
wear sneakers while in the gymnasium, the floors to be dry mopped prior to each
shift, the correction officers to perform a fire and safety check prior to each
shift, and the Recreational Program Leader II or a member of his staff to
inspect the equipment each day.
Further, Claimant concedes that he was aware that the heavy bag was ripped and
that the dark gray woolly material leaking from the bag had been an ongoing
problem. A Claimant "cannot complain of a condition that ‘can be readily
observed by a reasonable use of one's senses.' "
Moody v The State of New York
, #2002-016-018, Claim No. 85537 (quoting
Zaffiris v O'Loughlin
, 184 AD2d 696, 585 NYS2d 94, 95 [2d Dept 1992]).
Claimant should have inspected the bag prior to its use to see if it had been
fixed and he should have looked on the floor around the heavy bag for dark gray
Claimant has not demonstrated, by a preponderance of the credible evidence,
that the State had actual or constructive notice of the condition of the heavy
bag. The Claimant did not notify a correction officer about the ripped bag, he
could not identify the staff member whom he told, and he could not identify the
other inmates he claimed he was with when they told correction officers about
the leaking heavy bag. Recreational Program Leader II Raftis and Correction
Officer May testified that they were not aware of the ripped heavy bag and were
not aware of dark woolly material on the floor around the heavy bag.
Additionally, Claimant has not demonstrated, by a preponderance of the credible
evidence, that this dangerous condition was a proximate cause of the action.
Claimant asserts that the dangerous condition was the dark gray woolly material
that leaked from the heavy bag, but he has presented no evidence that anyone
else saw this dark gray woolly material. Correction Officer May testified that
he saw perspiration near the heavy bag which could have belonged to the Claimant
or another inmate, and could have caused Claimant's fall. This is an
alternative credible theory as to the reason why the Claimant slipped and fell
while he was working out with the punching bag.
For the reasons stated above, Claimant has failed to demonstrate that the State
was negligent by a preponderance of credible evidence, and therefore his claim
Any and all other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved
decision or which were not previously determined, are hereby denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.