New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MELVIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-009-064, Claim No. 107704, Motion No. M-70380


Synopsis


An in camera review was ordered in response to claimant's motion for an order compelling the production of certain documents.

Case Information

UID:
2005-009-064
Claimant(s):
CRAIG MELVIN
Claimant short name:
MELVIN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107704
Motion number(s):
M-70380
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant's attorney:
GREENE & REID, LLP
BY: James T. Snyder, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General
BY: Edward F. McArdle, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 21, 2005
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

Claimant has brought this motion seeking an order to compel the production of certain documents and items, as well as for an extension of the deadlines set forth in this Court's prior scheduling order.

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affirmation, with Exhibits 1,2


Affirmation in Opposition, with Exhibits 3

Reply Affirmation 4

In his claim, claimant seeks damages for personal injuries suffered by him on October 11, 2002, during an incident with another inmate, when both claimant and this inmate were incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility. On that date, claimant was working as an inmate porter, serving lunches to other inmates, when inmate Daniel Thomas allegedly threw a hot, burning liquid at claimant, causing him to suffer burns to his left arm and face.

During the course of discovery, claimant's attorney inspected Watch Commander's Log Books, and based upon this inspection, identified 13 "unusual incident" reports which he demanded to be produced. These reports purportedly provide details of prior incidents involving inmates throwing burning oil or other substances from hot pots at Auburn Correctional Facility.

Defendant has resisted disclosure of these reports, contending that such reports are irrelevant, and that production could potentially result in medical or private information of other inmates being disclosed without their authorization. Defendant further contends that due to the confidential nature of these reports, concerns bearing on the security of the facility are involved.

It appears that these prior incidents, if sufficiently similar in nature, could potentially provide relevant and admissible evidence with regard to the issue of prior notice. Furthermore, this demand, seeking the disclosure of 13 specifically enumerated and identified "unusual incident" reports, is clearly not overly broad, nor does it place an unreasonable burden upon the defendant to produce these reports.

Accordingly, these incident reports should therefore be produced by the defendant. However, since defendant has raised personal privacy issues, as well as potential implications pertaining to security concerns if it were compelled to disclose this information, the Court hereby determines that an in camera inspection of these "unusual incident" reports is appropriate to determine what material, if any, contained therein should not be disclosed. In order to facilitate the Court's review of these documents, defendant is directed to submit two copies of each report, a redacted copy indicating the information it seeks to protect from disclosure (and the legal basis upon which it relies) together with an unredacted copy. These submissions shall be made within 45 days of the date of the filing of this decision and order. Upon completing its review of these documents, the Court will then issue further directions to the parties indicating what portion of the documents in question should be disclosed.

Claimant also seeks production of all Mental Health Unit referrals regarding inmate Daniel Thomas, the alleged perpetrator. Defendant has opposed this disclosure primarily on the grounds that mental health records are confidential and are only discoverable upon court order (Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13).

The law is now settled that records concerning an inmate's behavior while confined may be disclosed as necessary and material to the prosecution of a claim which alleges that the State was negligent in failing to segregate an assailant with a known dangerous propensity (Wilson v State of New York, 36 AD2d 559). In claims where a claimant seeks the medical records of an alleged assailant, claimant is entitled to discover non-medical information contained in the alleged assailant's file relating to prior assaults or similar violent behavior (Moore v St. John's Episcopal Hosp., 89 AD2d 618). Any reports and references concerning physical and psychological examinations, or the results thereof, including prognosis, diagnosis and treatment, shall be excluded from any records provided (Brier v State of New York, 95 AD2d 788). Entries by medical personnel referring to a prior act of violence as a starting point for treatment, and any entry concerning treatment of the patient for the specific incident, shall also be excluded (Brier v State of New York, supra).

In this matter, claimant's attorney acknowledges the protections afforded by Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13, but has limited his request to any factual or observational notes or records made by non-professional laypersons which may be contained within Thomas' clinical records.

Since the mental health file for inmate Thomas may contain non-medical information which is subject to disclosure, defendant is hereby directed to provide the mental health file for inmate Thomas to the Court within 45 days of the filing date of this decision and order for an in camera review. As similarly outlined above, to facilitate the Court's review defendant is also directed to submit a redacted copy as well, indicating the information it seeks to protect from disclosure. Upon completing its review of this file, the Court will then determine what portion, if any, is subject to disclosure and will issue further directions to the parties accordingly.

Therefore, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-70380 is hereby GRANTED, to the extent that an in camera review of the documents sought by claimant will be conducted, as provided for herein; and it is further

ORDERED, that new dates for the completion of all discovery, and the service and filing of the note of issue and certificate of readiness, will be established by the Court upon completion of its in camera review.


December 21, 2005
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims