New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

AHMAD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-016-032, Claim No. 104616


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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Sulayman Ahmad a/k/a Paul Williamson, Jr., Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Joseph Romani, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
April 25, 2005
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This decision follows the trial of the claim of Sulayman Ahmad a/k/a Paul Williamson, in which it is alleged that because of defendant's negligence, claimant was assaulted by another Woodbourne Correctional Facility inmate. Mr. Ahmad also alleges that when he was taken to an outside hospital several days later, EMS personnel were detained for 15 minutes because of the horseplay of correction officers. Claimant testified on his own behalf and called Deputy Steven Lowry and Correction Officer Steven Freestone. Defendant called Sergeant Edward Craft and Doctor Mervat Makram.

Claimant testified that on June 6, 2001, at 4:30 p.m., an inmate named Santos came out of his cell, began making "slashing" movements with a dustpan, and came at claimant, striking him repeatedly on the face, arms and head with the dustpan. Ahmad said that he first tried to block Santos and was then able to grab his arm and wrestle away the dustpan. Claimant recalled that Santos then ran to the shower area and into a stall; claimant did not pursue him.

According to Ahmad, the dustpan had been manufactured in the facility, and hidden by Santos in his cell, although he did not provide the source of such information. Claimant described the object as more of a "short hand shovel" than a dustpan, contrasting it with lightweight aluminum pans that he said the facility started using some time after June 6, 2001.

Ahmad testified that at the time of the incident, there was no correction officer stationed in the area, adding that after the incident, Correction Officer Freestone found him with cuts on his hands, arms and head and told claimant to "lock in." He then saw a nurse and was provided with medical care. Claimant also testified that he received a disciplinary ticket for engaging in fighting, and was found guilty following a hearing.

As to Santos, claimant said he had seen him prior to the incident, but did not "know" him, and had never had any prior problems with him. Nor had he complained to the facility about Santos before the incident; however, he maintained that the correction officers knew that Santos was "crazy" at the time of the assault.

Finally, claimant testified that on June 8, 2001, DOCS physician Mervat Makram arranged for him to be taken to an outside hospital; he did not provide any information as to the nature of the hospital visit, although he referred to a previous stroke. Ahmad maintained that correction officers deliberately delayed the EMS personnel for 15 minutes by joking, playing music and calling him derogatory names.
* * *
Steven Lowry, the Woodbourne Deputy of Security, testified that each housing unit has one officer assigned, and in claimant's unit, such officer has an office in the "second cell." Lowry said that unlike other housing units, the "entire company" cannot be seen from such office, but he added that most of the time, the officer is not in the office, but is rather outside patrolling the housing unit. Lowry explained that claimant's housing unit (B-1) is known as the "flats," and is populated with inmates who have problems walking. According to Lowry, they tend to be older and have fewer disciplinary problems. Lowry added that he was not aware of any problems between Ahmad and Santos prior to June 6, 2001.

Lowry also disputed claimant's version of what the dustpan in question looked like, essentially stating that as of June 6th, lightweight aluminum pans were in use, although he was unaware of whether heavier dustpans had been manufactured at the facility. Finally, he stated that dustpans are kept in the "slop sink" area, which is usually open.
* * *
Correction Officer Steven Freestone testified that he was in the B-1 housing unit office when he became aware of the altercation between claimant and Santos because he heard loud noises coming from the gallery. He said that he saw two inmates in an altercation and ordered them to lock in, which they did, adding that no use of force was needed because the inmates stopped fighting when directed to do so. Officer Freestone estimated the time of his response to be within 10 seconds, and he described claimant as having "minor defensive wounds."
* * *
Sergeant Edward Craft testified that he did not witness the altercation between claimant and Santos, which he described as a "small incident," adding that Santos and Ahmad were already locked in when he arrived
* * *
Dr. Mervat Makram, the Woodbourne Health Services Director, testified that she was familiar with claimant and had provided medical treatment to him. Reviewing his medical records, she noted that he was treated after the June 6, 2001 incident for "extremely superficial scratches."

Dr. Makram also testified in detail as to the medical treatment provided to Mr. Ahmad on and after June 8, 2001, when he was admitted to an outside hospital for evaluation in connection with a heart condition, although such treatment is not called into question in Ahmad's claim.
* * *
With regard to inmate-on-inmate assaults, in
Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d 247, 252-53, 754 NYS2d 621, 624 (2002) (citations omitted), the Court of Appeals stated that "[h]aving assumed physical custody of inmates, who cannot protect and defend themselves in the same way as those at liberty can, the State owes a duty of care to safeguard inmates, even from attacks by fellow inmates . . . That duty does not, however, render the State an insurer of inmate safety." The Court went on to find as too restrictive a "strict requirement of specific knowledge for foreseeability," looking to "what the State reasonably should have known – for example, from its knowledge of risks to a class of inmates based on the institution's expertise or prior experience, or from its own policies and practices designed to address such risks . . ." 99 NY2d at 254, 754 NYS2d at 625.
Here, Ahmad presented no evidence that defendant had actual notice,
e.g., that Santos was on his enemies list or that claimant was a known vulnerable inmate. In addition, Ahmad's assertion that correction officers knew Santos was "crazy" is insufficient to show that such inmate was a known aggressor. Nor did claimant present any evidence of constructive notice.
Ahmad's case thus rests on his assertions that defendant was negligent in connection with the manufacture or storage of dustpans, or that claimant's housing unit was inadequately staffed. I find that claimant has not met his burden with regard to such assertions, noting with regard to the latter contention, that claimant did not dispute Officer Freestone's testimony that he responded within a matter of seconds. In that regard, see,
e.g., Schittino v State of New York, 262 AD2d 824, 692 NYS2d 760 (3d Dept 1999).
Finally, with regard to Ahmad's claim that the horseplay of correction officers delayed EMS personnel by 15 minutes, he failed to present expert medical testimony that any such delay was causally related to a resultant injury. See, e.g.,
Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516, 675 NYS2d 375 (2d Dept 1998), lv denied 92 NY2d 814, 681 NYS2d 475 (1998).
In sum, claimant has failed to prove defendant's negligence by a preponderance of the evidence and accordingly, claim no. 104616 is dismissed.


April 25, 2005
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims