New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HARRIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-009-146, Claim No. 105363


This claim seeking damages based upon inadequate and negligent medical treatment was dismissed based upon claimant's failure to provide any expert medical proof.

Case Information

GEORGE HARRIS The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: G. Lawrence Dillon, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 8, 2005

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, a pro se inmate at Mid-State Correctional Facility ("Mid-State"), seeks damages based upon allegations of inadequate and negligent medical treatment related to post-operative care following surgery on his left leg.

The trial of this claim took place at Marcy Correctional Facility on October 12, 2005, at which time claimant was the only witness to testify.

At trial, claimant testified that on October 23, 2001 he underwent an operation on his left leg at Upstate Medical Hospital in Syracuse, New York. This surgery occurred at a time when claimant was an inmate in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services and housed at Mid-State. Claimant testified that following surgery, on October 26, 2001, he was transported back to Mid-State in what he considered was an "unsterile environment".[1] Claimant then testified that on the following day, he told a physician at Mid-State that there was something wrong with his left leg, but that this physician did not examine his leg at that time. Approximately 11 days later, claimant testified that his left leg developed a "red and shiny" appearance. The following day, he developed a high temperature, and was placed on three different antibiotics to treat an infection in his leg. Claimant further testified that he eventually required another operation to drain the infection which had developed in his leg.

It is well settled that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate medical care to the inmates of its correctional facilities (Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, lv denied 76 NY2d 701). If the alleged negligent act or omission is readily determinable by the trier of fact based upon common knowledge, the appropriate theory of recovery is negligence (Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, 114 AD2d 254). However, if a patient's treatment, or lack thereof, is in controversy, a claim is more appropriately premised upon the more particularized theory of medical malpractice (Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025, lv denied 40 NY2d 804). Whether a claim is couched in terms of negligence or medical malpractice, expert medical proof will be required if the issues involve conditions beyond the common knowledge of a fact finder (Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653, lv denied 91 NY2d 810).

In this claim, it is claimant's contention that he received inadequate treatment from the physicians and medical staff at Mid-State in his post-operative care following the surgery on his left leg, and that this inadequate treatment resulted in the serious infection which developed in his leg, requiring further medical treatment.

It is common knowledge that the risk of post-operative infection is present in any surgical procedure. Having said this, however, the fact that claimant developed a post-operative infection does not, in and of itself, establish negligent medical treatment. In order to determine whether the State breached any duty to claimant in the treatment provided to him in this instance, expert medical testimony is required to establish a deviation from accepted standards of medical care (Macey v Hassam, 97 AD2d 919).

At trial, claimant offered only his own testimony as a layperson that the medical treatment provided by medical staff at Mid-State was inadequate. He did not present any medical proof with regard to his medical treatment, or lack thereof, at the facility and in the absence of any such testimony from a medical expert that the treatment received by him was improper, claimant has failed to establish his claim for inadequate and negligent medical treatment.

Accordingly, this claim is hereby DISMISSED.


December 8, 2005
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all references and quotations are taken from the Court's trial notes.