VAUGHN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-031-529, Claim No. 108937
Claimant demonstrated that Defendant illegally confined him for a period of 84
days. Claimant also demonstrated that Defendant neglected to honor his lower
bunk medical restriction during this 84 day period. Claimant awarded $1,260.00
for illegal confinement and $1,500.00 for pain and suffering related to his
being forced to occupy an upper bunk. Total award to Claimant in the amount of
Footnote (claimant name)
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name)
RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
PATRICK VAUGHN, PRO SE
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
New York State Attorney General
BY: REYNOLDS E. HAHN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
March 29, 2005
See also (multicaptioned
Claimant, Patrick Vaughn, filed claim number 108937 on February 23, 2004
against the State of New York. Claimant alleges that he was unlawfully confined
by the State of New York, that during this confinement Claimant was assaulted
in his cell by a known enemy, and that the State of New York neglected
Claimant's medical condition which required him to be given a bottom-bunk
assignment. I conducted the trial of this claim in Rochester, New York on
January 12, 2005.
Claimant alleges that he was unlawfully confined for 84 days at Lakeview Shock
Incarceration Correctional Facility ("Lakeview") Special Housing Unit ("SHU").
Mr. Vaughn testified that he was residing in Wyoming Correctional Facility when
he had problems with an employee of that facility, Correction Officer Hadsall.
Claimant alleges that Officer Hadsall harassed him by calling him a rapist in
front of many other inmates. Claimant was upset about Officer Hadsall's remark
because he was not a rapist or a sexual predator and he was worried he might
suffer violent consequences from other inmates who heard it. Claimant testifed
that, in response to this incident, he wrote a letter in which he "spazzed out."
The letter demonstrated Claimant's frustration, used threatening language and
implied that Claimant might be forced to harm Officer Hadsall if Claimant was
not removed from the facility (Defendant Exhibit B). The letter was addressed
to Captain Malenski, who assigned Sergeant Hecht to investigate the matter.
Sergeant Hecht testified that he had a conversation with Claimant about the
letter and subsequently issued Claimant a Tier III Inmate Misbehavior Report
("IMR," Defendant's Exhibit A) relating to the threatening and harassing
language contained in the letter. Sergeant Hecht wrote in the IMR that "Vaughn
admitted to this writer that he was writing about C.O. Hadsall when he wrote his
threats. He also stated he was very angry when he wrote the letter." Captain
Malenski, the recipient of the letter, presided over Claimant's disciplinary
hearing on the matter. Claimant alleges that this violated Defendant's
regulations relating to inmate disciplinary hearings. Claimant also alleges,
with regard to the hearing, that he was denied the right to call witnesses to
the event in which Officer Hadsall called Claimant a rapist, as well as another
incident when Claimant had requested soap from Officer Hadsall.
As a result of the hearing held on July 30, 2003, Claimant was sentenced to 84
days of SHU confinement. It appears from the record that Claimant was
transferred from Wyoming to Lakeview SHU, where he was to serve his disciplinary
sentence. Claimant appealed the hearing decision to Robert J. Murphy, Acting
Director, Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program, who affirmed Captain
Malenski's decision. Claimant made a second appeal to Donald Selsky, Director,
Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program, who administratively reversed the
decision on January 6, 2004, well after Claimant had completed serving the 84
days SHU sentence (Claimant's Exhibits 5, 6).
While in his cell at Lakeview SHU, Claimant testified that he was exposed to
inactive tuberculosis and repeated sexual advances by the other inmate in the
cell, with one event on September 2 - 3, 2003 that caused the Claimant to resort
to fistfighting in self defense. Claimant alleges that the correction officers
on the cell block did not intervene in the altercation for several hours, even
after requests by both inmates for help (Claimant's Exhibit 3). After asking
for help from Correction Officers Griffith and Dhali, and being repeatedly
ignored, Claimant alleges that he kicked the cell door for attention, and was
issued a written warning for this behavior (Claimant's Exhibit 3). Claimant
also testified that, just after a physical altercation with his cellmate, the
correction officer on duty put two razors in the cell for the designated shower
time, and his cellmate tampered with his razor to make it into a weapon.
Claimant notified the correction officer and was left in this cell for another
week before being transferred to the top bunk of another cell.
With regard to his medical malpractice/neglect claim, Claimant testified that
he has a chronic back condition. Evidence of this condition was contained in
the report of C. J. Riggio, M.D., who evaluated Claimant on September 9, 2002
(Defendant's Exhibit C). Claimant also had a permanent written medical
restriction requiring that he be assigned to a bottom bunk because getting up
and down would further strain his back (Defendant's Exhibit C; Claimant's
Exhibit 2). Claimant was placed in the top bunk of his cell at Lakeview SHU,
despite having brought this written restriction to the attention of the
correction officers on duty at the time. During Claimant's time at Lakeview
SHU, he made numerous complaints relating to back pain (Defendant's Exhibit C).
Claimant's medical records also note multiple requests for a lower bunk.
Claimant used the Inmate Grievance Program in an attempt to obtain a bottom bunk
assignment, but the grievance was denied (Claimant's Exhibit 4). Claimant
alleges that a member of the Lakeview medical staff, upon learning of the
written restriction, told the Claimant that getting up and down from the top
bunk would be good exercise for his back. Claimant testified that the top bunk
made his back pain worse.
Claimant testified that he took 200 mg of ibuprofen throughout his
incarceration but Claimant's medical records do not indicate consistent use
(Defendant's Exhibit C). They do, however, indicate that Claimant was in pain,
evidenced by frequent recordings of "sick calls" to the nurse on duty while in
Lakeview SHU. Claimant clarified that he did not take ibuprofen regularly
because, to his knowledge, ibuprofen could not be taken with his prescription
blood pressure medication. Claimant did admit on cross-examination that he
suffered no physical injuries during his physical altercations with his cellmate
and that he never contracted tuberculosis. On October 21, 2003, Claimant was
transferred to Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica") to finish his
Vance Mason Hawley, a licensed Registered Nurse employed at Attica, testified
that he encountered Claimant on October 21, 2003 as part of routine intake
evaluations. Hawley testified that Claimant takes Maxide for high blood
pressure and that his records do not indicate medications for pain. Claimant
was assigned to a bottom bunk at Attica. Hawley also testified that, to his
knowledge, Claimant could have taken ibuprofen with his high blood pressure
Defendant correctly points out that the State enjoys absolute immunity from
claims for monetary damages relating to disciplinary hearings when the rules and
regulations that govern such hearings are followed (
Arteaga v State of New York
, 72 NY2d 212). However, Claimant's
allegations are that the hearing was not
conducted in accordance with
applicable rules and regulations. If Defendant did violate its own rules and
regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted outside the sphere of
privileged actions, this immunity is lost (Arteaga v State of New York
; Holloway v State of New York
, 285 AD2d 765; cf.
Gittens v State of New York
, 132 Misc 2d 399 [NY Ct Cl
Claimant received his disciplinary sentence as a result of writing a letter
containing threats to Captain Malenski. Captain Malenski was the individual who
ordered Sergeant Hecht to investigate the incident. Defendant does not dispute
that it was also Captain Malenski who presided over Claimant's disciplinary
hearing. 7 NYCRR § 254.1, which governs such disciplinary hearings,
provides as follows:
"The following persons shall not be appointed to conduct the proceeding: a
person who actually witnessed the incident; a person who was directly involved
in the incident; the review officer who reviewed the misbehavior report, or a
person who has investigated the incident."
I find that it was inappropriate for Captain Malenski, the recipient of the
letter and the person who initiated the investigation, to preside over
Claimant's disciplinary hearing. As such, Defendant's
immunity was lost and Claimant's confinement was illegal.
Accordingly, I find that Claimant was improperly confined to SHU for a period of
84 days. I award Claimant the amount of $1,260.00, representing $15.00 for each
day that he was improperly confined.
LOWER BUNK ASSIGNMENT
I also find that Claimant has adequately demonstrated that he had a legitimate
medical restriction requiring that he be permanently assigned to a lower bunk.
Defendant argues that this cause of action lacks merit because medical staff at
Lakeview evaluated Claimant's back and determined that such an assignment was
not necessary. I note, however, that this evaluation was in response to
Claimant's grievance concerning his bunk assignment and not a step that was
taken prior to violating the restriction and giving Claimant an upper-bunk
Apart from his uncontradicted testimony regarding the pain and discomfort that
getting in and out of the upper bunk caused him, Claimant was unable to
demonstrate any actual independent injury to his back caused by being assigned
to an upper bunk. Accordingly, I award Claimant the amount of $1,500.00 for the
pain and suffering he endured during the period he was assigned the upper
Claimant's final cause of action relates to his being confined with an inmate
that was a known enemy and whom Claimant alleges exposed him to tuberculosis.
Claimant candidly admitted that he had been informed that his cellmate was not
contagious. Claimant also indicated that he did not contract tuberculosis. He
further admitted that his concerns about his cell assignment were voiced after
his initial fight with his cellmate and that he suffered no physical injuries as
a result. Claimant also presented no competent evidence that he suffered any
emotional or psychological injuries (
Alcalay v Town of N. Hempstead
, 262 AD2d 258; Young v New York City
, 143 AD2d 656). For this reason, I find no merit in this cause of
action and dismiss it.
Accordingly, I award Claimant $1,260.00 on his illegal confinement cause of
action and $1,500.00 on his medical neglect cause of action. Claimant's total
award is $2,760.00.
To the extent that Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant
to Court of Claims Act §11-a(2). Any and all motions on which the Court
may have previously reserved decision are hereby denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
March 29, 2005
HON. RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Judge of the Court of
The amount claimed has been amended to conform
to the proof.