New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SEAGER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-019-554, Claim No. 107835, Motion No. M-70384


Synopsis


Claimant's motion to compel is granted to the extent the court orders in camera review of inmate's disciplinary history and denied with respect to remaining demands.

Case Information

UID:
2005-019-554
Claimant(s):
MICHAEL T. SEAGER
Claimant short name:
SEAGER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107835
Motion number(s):
M-70384
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT A. DURR, ESQ.BY: Rory A. McMahon, Esq., of counsel
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 1, 2005
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate, moves for an order compelling the defendant to provide additional responses to his discovery demands.[1] The defendant State of New York (hereinafter "State") opposes the motion.

This claim alleges that claimant was sexually assaulted on June 8, 2002 by another inmate identified as Fred Meyers, # 95-A-8522, while incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility. More specifically, claimant alleges that inmate Meyers was known by the State to have violent and/or sexually violent propensities.


Claimant served various discovery demands on the State all of which were filed with the Clerk of the Court on February 27, 2004. The State's responses were filed with the Clerk of the Court on March 22, 2004. Thereafter, by way of letter to the court dated September 22, 2004, claimant's attorney requested, among other things, that the court conduct an in camera review of inmate Meyers' file with the Department of Correctional Services("DOCS"). The court advised counsel in writing that such requests must be made by way of formal motion. (Court's letter dated September 27, 2004). Thereafter, in May 2005, claimant's counsel telephoned chambers at which time he was again advised that his request for an in camera review must be made by formal motion. Now, finally, counsel has submitted the motion papers that were first discussed nearly one year ago.


Claimant's requests must be viewed in the context of his theory of liability, namely negligent supervision. It is well-settled that in order to establish liability in an inmate-on-inmate assault case, a claimant must demonstrate one of the following: (1) the State knew or had reason to know that claimant was at risk of being assaulted and yet failed to provide reasonable protection; (2) the State knew or had reason to know that the assailant was prone to perpetrating such an assault and the State did not take proper precautionary measures; or (3) the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene but did not act. (Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d 247). Although claimant's papers do not clearly articulate the exact documents sought, the court has reviewed the motion papers as well as all related discovery to date and has been able to determine that claimant is requesting an in camera review of seven categories of documents each of which the court will review in seriatim.


First, claimant requests additional information regarding a reference contained in the State's discovery responses to an incident in which inmate Meyers threatened another inmate, named Hobbs. Claimant argues that such a prior threat, if known to the State, may go to the issue of the State's notice of inmate Meyers' violent propensities. The court agrees. Accordingly, the court directs the State to produce for an in camera review, the inmate misbehavior reports pertaining to inmate Meyers' threat of inmate Hobbs and/or any other persons.


Second, claimant seeks additional information regarding the notation in the State's discovery responses that inmate Meyers' sexual assault of claimant had been confirmed by two confidential sources. The court finds such information is material and relevant. Accordingly, the court directs the State to produce for an in camera review the statements and/or reports made by or regarding the two sources that allegedly confirmed the subject attack.


Third, claimant seeks "[t]he Court compel the State to turn over the files to conduct an in camera review of inmate Fred Meyers Department of Corrections file for any information of his violent or sexual behaviors that might give notice." (Affirmation of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., ¶ 7). Claimant's vague reference to the DOCS' file will be construed as a request for an in camera review of inmate Meyers' inmate disciplinary history, as well as inmate misbehavior reports for any incidents listed thereon that are violent and/or sexual in nature. Obviously, such reports, if any, may be material and relevant to this claim. Consequently, the State is directed to produce Inmate Meyers' inmate disciplinary history for an in camera review, as well as the corresponding inmate misbehavior reports for any incident listed thereon that is violent and/or sexual in nature.


Fourth, claimant requests "[t]hat the Defendant forward any reports or statements that may have been done." (Affirmation of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., ¶ 8). The court finds this request to be vague and, as such, denies this request.


Fifth, claimant "[r]equests the Court provide counsel with any other information in this file that the Court deems appropriate." (Affirmation of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., ¶ 9). The court finds this request to be vague and, as such, denies this request.


Sixth, claimant requests the State produce "[a] list of all inmates incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility from January 1, 2000 to January 31, 2003." (Affirmation of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., ¶ 10). The stated purpose of this request is to be able to ascertain the identity of an inmate identified as "Woody" whom, it is alleged, was also sexually assaulted by inmate Meyers. The court finds this demand to be overly broad. That having been said, however, obviously any previous sexual assaults are material and relevant on the issue of the State's notice of this alleged assault. However, any sexual assaults committed by inmate Meyers while incarcerated should be included on the inmate disciplinary history already directed to be produced.


The final and seventh request by claimant is that the State provide "[t]he names of prison guards, employees, social workers, counselors and medical staff who treated members of "H" Block." (Affirmation of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., ¶ 14). Claimant indicates this information will allow him to identify the counselor to whom both claimant and inmate "Woody" allegedly reported their sexual assault. The court finds this demand overly broad and, as such, will be denied.


With respect to all the documents that this court has directed the State to produce for an in camera review, the State is directed to produce two copies of each document, with one copy of each document to be unredacted and the second copy to be redacted in a manner which the State believes presents information relevant to this claim while removing privileged or irrelevant information. These records are to be provided to the court within forty-five (45) days of the filing date of this Decision and Order. After reviewing these documents, the court will issue a further decision regarding whether and how any portion of these documents are to be provided to claimant.


Consequently, in view of the foregoing, it is ORDERED that claimant's motion to compel discovery, Motion No. M-70384, is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. In accordance with the foregoing, the State is directed to submit the aforementioned documents to the court for an in camera review within forty-five (45) days from the filing date of this Decision and Order. Upon reviewing said documents, the court will issue a further decision regarding claimant's motion to compel relating to those specific documents.


August 1, 2005
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The court has considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
  1. Claim, filed June 6, 2003.
  2. Verified Answer, filed July 10, 2003.
  3. Claimant's Demand for Verified Bill of Particulars, filed February 27, 2004.
  4. Claimant's First Set of Discovery Demands, filed February 27, 2004.
  5. Defendant's Bill of Particulars, filed March 22, 2004.
  6. Defendant's Reply to First Set of Discovery Demands, filed March 22, 2004.
  7. Letter from Rory A. McMahon, Esq. to the Court, dated September 22, 2004, and received September 23, 2004.
  8. Letter from the Court to Mr. McMahon, dated September 27, 2004.
  9. "Motion for Court to Compel Discovery Motion for Court to Conduct In Camera Review of Inmate Fred Meyers Department of Corrections File", Motion No. M-70384, of Rory A. McMahon, Esq., dated July 8, 2005, and filed July 11, 2005, with attached exhibits.
  10. Affirmation of Joseph F. Romani, AAG, in opposition to motion, dated July 18, 2005, and filed July 21, 2005.

[1]The court will deem the application as properly made despite the lack of a Notice of Motion. (22 NYCRR § 206.8; Sunderlin v State of New York, Ct Cl, January 10, 2005, Sise, P.J., Claim No. 109688, Motion No. M-69134 [UID No. 2005-028-503]). Selected unreported decisions from the Court of Claims are available via the Internet at