New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GRIFFITH v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-015-048, Claim No. 110936, Motion Nos. M-70568, CM-70641


Synopsis


Material issue of fact precludes summary judgment to both parties in this inmate assault case.

Case Information

UID:
2005-015-048
Claimant(s):
JOSEPH GRIFFITH
Claimant short name:
GRIFFITH
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
110936
Motion number(s):
M-70568
Cross-motion number(s):
CM-70641
Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney:
Joseph Griffith, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Frederick H. McGown, III, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
October 18, 2005
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant's motion for summary judgment determining liability on the part of the State and awarding judgment in the amount of $350,000 is denied. Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment on the ground that claimant's own intentional acts caused the injury for which he seeks compensation is likewise denied. The claim seeks to recover damages for an assault which occurred at Great Meadow Correctional Facility on March 26, 2005. Specifically, the claim alleges that the defendant failed or refused to secure an unsupervised area of the facility during "go back" from the recreation yard and that such failure or refusal violated institutional policy regarding alertness and attention while supervising inmates. It is further alleged that as a result of the inattention of correction officers claimant was slashed from behind by an unknown inmate sustaining lacerations to his left cheek and behind his left ear.

Although claimant's notice of motion does not specify the grounds for the motion (see CPLR 2214 [a]) claimant's supporting affidavit appears to assert that the defendant has no defense to the cause of action (see CPLR 3212 [b]). The motion is supported solely by the affidavit of the claimant[1].

The defendant opposed the motion and cross-moved for summary judgment dismissing the claim upon the affirmation of Assistant Attorney General Frederick H. McGown, III and the affidavit of Stephen W. Rowe, a correction captain at Great Meadow, along with certified records of an investigation of the March 26, 2005 incident.

The rules applicable to the determination of a motion for summary judgment were clearly stated by the Court of Appeals in Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324:
As we have stated frequently, the proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404). Failure to make such prima facie showing requires a denial of the motion, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra, at p 853). Once this showing has been made, however, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action (Zuckerman v City of New York, supra, at p 562).
The proponent of a summary judgment motion may only meet its initial burden through the submission of evidentiary proof in admissible form (Rifenburgh v Wilczek, 294 AD2d 653). On a motion for summary judgment the Court's "focus must be upon 'issue finding, rather than issue- determination'" (Vopelak v Tedeschi, 281 AD2d 809; Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395). Where the Court finds that the motion papers raise a material issue of fact the motion or in this case the motion and cross-motion must be denied (see, Lustyik v Manaher, 226 AD2d 852).

The affidavits submitted by the parties demonstrate the existence of multiple questions of fact with reference to the supervision of the area where the assault occurred and what role, if any, claimant's own conduct may have played in the attack which produced his injuries.

Both motions for summary judgment must, therefore, be denied.


October 18, 2005
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated August 8, 2005, with attachments;
  2. Affidavit of Joseph Griffith sworn to August 8, 2005;
  3. Notice of cross-motion dated August 31, 2005;
  4. Affirmation of Frederick H. McGown, III dated August 31, 2005;
  5. Affidavit of Stephen W. Rowe sworn to August 29, 2005 with exhibits;


[1]While claimant failed to include a copy of the pleadings as required by CPLR 3212 (b) this failure will be disregarded by the Court as a mere irregularity pursuant to CPLR 2001since the defendant failed to object to the motion on that basis and because this Court has access to the filed pleadings.