New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

STANLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-016-046, Claim No. 103044


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:
William L. Stanley, Jr., Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: James E. Shoemaker, Esq., AAG, and Joseph F. Romani, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 3, 2005
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This decision follows the trial of the claim of William L. Stanley, Jr., which was tried at Sullivan Correctional Facility. In his claim, Mr. Stanley states that he was administered the medication Baclofen at Woodbourne Correctional Facility for a period of three months, after which Woodbourne's medical staff "allowed [the prescription] to run out . . ." Claimant alleges that the "abrupt cessation" of such medication caused him to suffer seizures. At trial, Stanley testified on his own behalf and also called Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) physician Frank Lancellotti.

Claimant testified that on October 20, 1998, he went to sick call because "there was something wrong . . . I was shaking and . . . having involuntary muscle control . . . what I felt like was going to sleep . . ." He said he was asked if he had ever had seizures before and he responded that he had not. He was 41 years old at the time. According to claimant, he went back to his cell and later that day, was found there having a grand mal seizure. Stanley recalled that after being examined, he was told by facility physicians that the seizure had been caused by withdrawal from the drug Baclofen.

Stanley said that he had earlier been given a three-month prescription of Baclofen for back pain, following a consultation at Albany Pain Management Center According to claimant, he was supposed to be sent back to Albany Pain Management Center within the three-month period of the prescription, but he was not in fact sent back and the prescription ran out, approximately 6 days before his seizure. Claimant's medical records (exhibit 1) contains a July 8, 1998 "Request & Report of Consultation" which includes, among other things, the following "[s]uggest[ions]" (presumably of the Albany Pain Management Center physician): "would start Baclofen 10 mg" and "follow up in 3 months." Claimant also stated that he was not told of any potential side effects or dangers in stopping the Baclofen and thus he did not ask to have his prescription renewed after it had run out.

Claimant testified that since the initial seizure on October 20, 1998, he has had additional petit mal seizures, where he "lose[s] focus for a couple of minutes and then come[s] back . . ." He said that he is being treated with various medications for such seizures.

Finally, Stanley testified that because of the continuing seizures, "they don't want me around equipment, any kind of heavy equipment, or driving anything, or taking any chances like that. I [used] to work out – I don't work out just in case [I'm] under heavy weight at the time. . ." He added that his condition is exacerbated if he engages in strenuous activity.
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Dr. Frank Lancellotti was shown a "Request & Report of Consultation" (exhibit 4) in which he had requested a consultation for claimant with Dr. Neil Lava, a neurologist at Albany Medical Center, which consultation was done on October 20, 1999, one year after the events of October 20, 1998. Dr. Lancellotti testified that he had made the handwritten entry in the "Reason for consultation" section, which states "[history of] seizures felt by Dr. Lava to be secondary to Baclofen withdrawal in 10/98 . . . continues to have witnessed episodes of involuntary eye blinking along with loss of consciousness . . ."

As to October 20, 1998, Dr. Lancellotti reviewed claimant's medical records (exhibit 1), which state that claimant was found lying in his bunk, disoriented, sluggish and complaining of severe headaches. The doctor stated that he was notified on that date and that he directed that claimant be sent to the emergency room at Community General Hospital.

Dr. Lancellotti testified that he was familiar with the medication Baclofen and was not aware of any side effects from rapid withdrawal. Asked if someone complaining of muscle cramps, tremors and shaking could be suffering from withdrawal symptoms, Lancellotti answered "Possibly." The doctor testified that he did not know if Stanley's symptoms on October 20, 1998 were caused by withdrawal from Baclofen.

Asked if he had "any problem" with Dr. Lava's view that the seizures "possibly came from Baclofen withdrawal," Lancellotti said that he "deferred to Dr. Lava [because] . . . [h]e's a neurologist, I'm not."

On cross-examination by defendant, Dr. Lancellotti noted that Dr. Lava's entry on the aforementioned "Request & Report of Consultation" contained a diagnosis of "partial complex seizures" followed by a question mark, indicating that there was "some question" as to the diagnosis.

The doctor also testified on cross-examination as to the DOCS protocol for the renewal of prescriptions. He said that a three-month prescription would be given one month at a time and "all the inmates that are in-drafted to the facility know that once the refills have run out . . . they can ask for renewals . . . when they run out of medicine, the inmates know that they're supposed to ask for renewals." Dr. Lancellotti testified that there was no indication in Stanley's records that he had requested any additional Baclofen.
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Even if the failure to continue the use of Baclofen can be imputed to the State of New York, claimant must prove that stopping its use after 90 days was the proximate cause of his seizures and that such cessation represented a variation from accepted standards of medical care.
See, e.g., Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516, 675 NYS2d 375 (2d Dept 1998), lv denied 92 NY2d 814, 681 NYS2d 475 (1998). Such proof must be supported by expert medical testimony. As indicated earlier, there are notes by Dr. Lava, a neurologist, expressing something less than a "reasonable degree of medical certainty" about what happened to Mr. Stanley and why. See Moon v Cortland Mem. Hosp., 6 Misc 3d 1029(A), 2004 WL 3211517 (Supreme Court Cortland County 2004). Dr. Lancellotti, an internist, deferred to Dr. Lava. Furthermore, claimant did not call a non-treating expert witness, as was relied upon by the claimants in Rivera v State of New York, 796 NYS2d 477 (4th Dept 2005) and Ogle v State of New York, 191 AD2d 878, 594 NYS2d 824 (3d Dept 1993). Here, in fact, the Court granted claimant a continuance to secure expert testimony.
For the foregoing reasons, claim no.103044 is dismissed. Let judgment be entered accordingly.

August 3, 2005
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims