New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

REYNOLDS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-028-509, Claim No. 108744, Motion No. M-68940


Claimant's motion for partial summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3212 is denied.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Dennis ActonAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 31, 2005

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read on Claimant's motion pursuant to CPLR 3212 for partial summary judgment:

1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Roy Reynolds (Reynolds Affidavit), with annexed exhibits filed August 13, 2004

2. Affidavit in Opposition of Assistant Attorney General Dennis Acton (Acton Affidavit) and Affidavit of Robert W. DiPrima (DiPrima Affidavit) with annexed exhibit A, filed September 8, 2004.

3. Reply Affidavit of Roy Reynolds (Reynolds Reply) with annexed exhibit A and A-1, filed September 10, 2004.
Filed Papers:

Claim No. 108744 filed January 7, 2004;
Order of the Hon. Richard E. Sise, dated and filed January 27, 2004.
Verified Answer filed February 19, 2004.

The instant Claim arose on June 13, 2003 when Claimant allegedly fell from the top bunk of his housing unit at Coxsackie Correctional Facility. The Claimant's motion seeks summary judgment on the issue of liability. Defendant opposes the motion referencing issues of fact and credibility with regard to Claimant's allegations of the alleged fall including lack of witnesses and physical injuries (Acton Affidavit ¶ 8; DiPrima Affidavit ¶ 8; Claimant's Exhibit 1). Defendant also argues that the timing of the alleged fall raises questions of fact and credibility. Defendant asserts that prior to the incident, Claimant was informed he would be sent to Special Housing for failure to comply with work orders thus the timing of Claimant's alleged injuries prevented the imposition of punishment (Acton Affidavit ¶ 8; Exhibit A).

The following recitation of facts is based upon the Court's review of the papers submitted in connection with the instant motion. Claimant, at all times relevant an inmate, alleges the Defendant was negligent when it failed to provide adequate accommodations for Claimant's special needs by assigning him to the top bunk when he was entitled to bottom bunk privileges because of his ongoing medical disability[1]. Claimant further alleges that because of Defendant's negligence Claimant was exposed to injury when he fell from the top bunk. Claimant asserts that he is entitled to partial summary judgment because the evidence submitted establishes the Defendant's liability(Reynolds Affidavit ¶ 6).

The rule governing summary judgment is well established: The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case (Winegrad v New York University Medical Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853), and such showing must be made "by producing evidentiary proof in admissible form"(Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562). "[R]egardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers," in the absence of admissible evidence sufficient to preclude any material issue of fact, summary judgment is unavailable (Ayotte v Gervasio, 81 NY2d 1062, 1063, quoting Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324). Summary judgment should not be granted where there is doubt as to the existence of a material issue of fact (Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404; Moskowitz v Garlock, 23 AD2d 943; Epstein v Scally, 99 AD2d 713). The Court's function is to determine if an issue exists. In doing so, the Court must examine the proof in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.

On the instant application, the Court can not conclude that Claimant has met his burden entitling him to partial summary judgment. Nowhere in the record does Claimant establish what specifically caused Claimant's alleged fall. Furthermore, in addition to the assignment of bunks, there may be other factors which contributed to the incident. Claimant states he takes medication which causes him to become "drowsy" and prior to the incident Claimant was "dizzy" and experiencing leg cramps (Claim ¶ H, Reynolds Affidavit ¶ 8). Finally, Defendant's allegations that Claimant was informed he was going to be punished for failing to obey facility orders prior to the alleged fall (Acton Affidavit ¶ 8) raises material questions of fact. The failure to establish causation is fatal to Claimant's application for summary judgment (see gen Ramee v Weathervane Seafoods, 273 AD2d 768). In this regard, Claimant's application is devoid of any evidence from which the Court could make such a finding of liability as a matter of law and resolution of the same must await trial. Moreover, the court notes that issues of credibility are better assessed at trial, not on papers.

Accordingly, Claimant's motion for partial summary judgment is denied. The Court will mark this Claim ready for trial and it will be scheduled for trial as soon as practicable.

January 31, 2005
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Claimant submitted exhibits which include a medical assessment from Five Points Correctional Facility and a diagnostic imaging report from Mount St. Mary's Hospital denoting Claimant's back problems.