New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

KETTERMAN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-015-503, Claim No. 107298


Court dismissed personal injury claim by inmate for failure to prove defendant's negligence by preponderance of the evidence.

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:
Alfred Ketterman, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Saul Aronson, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 31, 2005
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant commenced this action seeking $125,000.00 for personal injuries to his right hand which he allegedly sustained on January 10, 2002 when he fell while descending from the top bunk in Cell C-4-4 at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Great Meadow).

A trial was held on November 8, 2004 at Great Meadow. The claimant testified at trial that he had had surgery on both feet prior to being transferred to Great Meadow and that he requested but had not received a medical slip assigning him to a lower bunk. He alleged further that he complained to Correction Officer Granger one month prior to the incident and requested that he be moved from a double-bunk cell to a single cell. He was advised that such a move was allowed only if he and his bunkmate requested it in writing. He also testified that he made a similar request to other unknown officers without success. Claimant alleged that he should have been provided with either a ladder or a chair to access the top bunk.

On cross-examination claimant admitted that prior to his fall he never made a written complaint about being assigned to the top bunk. Claimant did, however, author a non-specific complaint regarding his bunkmate on January 20, 2002, the date of the injury alleged herein.

The Court inquired whether claimant had any proof of his alleged prior complaints or alleged medical disability to which the witness replied that he had no such proof. Claimant's medical records were neither subpoenaed nor produced. Upon the conclusion of his testimony claimant rested.

The defendant called Sergeant T.L. Vedder as its sole witness. He testified that he has been employed by the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) for twenty-two years. He worked at Great Meadow as a block sergeant when double-bunking regulations were instituted and before being assigned to the mental health unit/hospital at Great Meadow. Sergeant Vedder stated that he was familiar with the regulations regarding double bunking at Great Meadow and that those regulations do not permit a chair or ladder in double-bunk cells. According to the witness access to the top bunk is obtained either by standing on the bottom rail of the bottom bunk or by using the inmate's locker to "leg up" to the top bunk. The witness was unaware of any complaints made by the claimant regarding his bunk assignment prior to his fall.

At the conclusion of the testimony the Court issued a bench decision finding that claimant failed to sustain his burden of establishing the State's liability for his fall and subsequent injury. Specifically, the Court found no proof that prior to the accident claimant suffered from a physical disability which would have required a lower-bunk assignment. Moreover, claimant had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the State failed to provide an adequate or appropriate means of access to the top bunk. The Court will not second-guess DOCS' decision to adopt regulations regarding the presence of chairs within inmate cells as DOCS is entitled to deference in maintaining the order and safety of its facility (
Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 216). No basis for liability having been found the Court dismissed the claim at the conclusion of the trial.
The Clerk shall enter judgment in conformity with this decision.

January 31, 2005
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims