New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

COOPER v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-015-507, Claim No. 106651


Failure of claimant to offer expert medical opinion regarding vision problem resulted in trial court's dismissal of the claim for medical malpractice.

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

Signature date:
February 7, 2005
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In a claim filed September 18, 2002 claimant alleges that on May 23, 2002 he fell down stairs at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, Comstock, New York when his vision became impaired. The claim alleges that claimant's loss of vision was due to the failure of Department of Correctional Services medical personnel to promptly and adequately treat a known condition in claimant's left eye.

A trial was held at Great Meadow Correctional Facility on November 9, 2004 at which claimant was the sole witness. He testified that upon his entry into the Department of Correctional Services' (DOCS) system in 2000 he reported a vision problem to the medical staff at Upstate Correctional Facility. During his time there he was scheduled to see an eye doctor at Coxsackie Correctional Facility but was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional Facility prior to the date of the appointment. After arriving at Great Meadow in October 2000 he informed a nurse of the previously scheduled appointment at Coxsackie and was advised that he would have to wait several months for another appointment. Claimant alleged that he was subsequently rescheduled to see the eye doctor but that he missed the scheduled appointment when he was not "called out" on the date of the appointment. Approximately one year later claimant was again scheduled for an eye examination outside the facility but was transferred to Coxsackie before being examined. Once claimant arrived at Coxsackie he received several follow-up examinations and was sent to Albany Medical Center where a doctor discussed various treatment options including surgery. Claimant elected to receive contact lenses which offered some limited improvement but often left him with double vision. He was later transferred to Sing Sing Correctional Facility where he was informed of a two-year waiting period for further evaluation. Claimant admitted that the vision problem originated from pre-incarceration traumatic injury to the eye which allegedly crushed the cornea and caused the eye to stop moving.

As to the May 23, 2002 incident claimant testified that due to the double vision he was experiencing he missed a step while walking down a flight of stairs at Great Meadow Correctional Facility and fell down the stairs striking his forehead. He admitted that an accident report (Exhibit 1) completed by him on the day of the incident does not mention that a vision problem caused or contributed to the accident. He did not explain various factual discrepancies between his testimony and the facts as related in Exhibit 1.

The defendant called no witnesses but moved to dismiss the claim for claimant's failure to sustain his burden of proof due largely to the absence of expert medical evidence.

In its bench decision the Court held that absent expert medical proof it could not know the actual nature of claimant's condition, its effect, if any, on claimant's vision and any connection between the alleged condition and the claimant's fall or the headaches he also complained of. Moreover claimant failed to establish by expert medical proof that the alleged delay in treatment either caused or exacerbated claimant's condition or was a departure from accepted medical practice and standards. Accordingly, the Court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim. This decision confirms the prior bench decision.

The Clerk shall enter judgment in accord with the decision.

February 7, 2005
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims