Directive 4066 (referred to as Exhibit G to Item 6, submitted for in camera
inspection only) (M-71808) 7
Claimant’s Reply (M-71807/M-71808) 8
In his filed claim, claimant alleges that on April 17, 2004, he fell on a floor
mat at Mid-State Correctional Facility, where he was then incarcerated.
Claimant further alleges that this fall, and the injuries suffered by him as a
result of that fall, was caused by defendant’s failure to properly
maintain that floor mat.
In its verified answer, defendant has asserted one affirmative defense,
alleging that whatever injuries or damages sustained by claimant were caused, in
whole or in part, by his own culpable conduct.
A motion to dismiss a defense must be made on the grounds that a defense is not
stated or that it has no merit (CPLR 3211[b]). It is error for a court to
strike a defense in situations where material issues of fact remain unresolved
(Matter of Harrison v State of New York, 262 AD2d 833; Connelly v
Warner, 248 AD2d 941). When a claimant moves to dismiss a defense, the
claimant bears the burden of coming forward with sufficient proof to demonstrate
that the defense cannot be maintained, while the defendant is entitled to the
benefit of every reasonable construction of the pleading. If there is any doubt
as to the availability of a defense, it should not be dismissed (Pellegrino v
Millard Fillmore Hosp., 140 AD2d 954).
In the instant motion (M-71807), although claimant takes issue with the defense
asserted by defendant, and argues that it cannot be maintained, he has failed to
establish, at this stage of the proceedings, that the defense has no merit. The
essential nature of this claim (i.e., a slip and fall resulting from an
allegedly defective floor mat) necessarily brings into question the issue of
whether claimant’s actions contributed in any degree to the occurrence.
Claimant is advised, however, that this defense is merely an assertion alleged
by the defendant, for which the defendant retains its burden of proof.
Defendant, however, must be provided with the opportunity to develop its defense
that claimant may have contributed to his injuries.
In Motion No. M-71808, claimant seeks an order directing the defendant to
produce certain records. Specifically, claimant seeks the production of
Departmental Directive 4066 from the Department of Correctional Services
(“DOCS”), which defendant had refused to provide in its previously
served Bill of Particulars. Defendant contends that release of this directive
is restricted, as it is not distributed to the general inmate population.
In response to this motion, defendant has submitted the requested directive to
the Court for an in camera inspection (Item 7). This directive, titled
“Facility Safety and Environmental Services Inspections” governs the
inspection requirements at DOCS facilities. The distribution of this directive
has been restricted by the Commissioner, who has been granted broad discretion
in formulating and implementing policies pertaining to the security of
correctional facilities (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 217).
Defendant has established to the satisfaction of the Court that this directive
falls within the Commissioner’s powers and duties related to the
management of correctional facilities, and that the Commissioner has made a
determination to restrict access to this directive.
Even though the Commissioner has restricted access to this document, this Court
has the authority, under appropriate circumstances, to direct its release.
Accordingly, the Court has reviewed this document, and while it may be remotely
relevant, disclosure of this directive will have no direct bearing on the
outcome of this case.
Balancing the general rule that all relevant information is discoverable,
against the Commissioner’s duties of maintaining order and security in
correctional facilities as well as protecting the safety of inmates and
employees therein, the Court determines that disclosure of Directive 4066 need
not be made by the defendant. The Court believes that claimant may obtain all
relevant information pertaining to this incident through other document
discovery, or through testimony at trial.
Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing, it is
ORDERED, that Motion No. M-71807 and Motion No. M-71808 are both hereby DENIED,
and it is further
ORDERED, that based upon the determination made herein, the Clerk of the Court
is directed to return to the defendant Directive 4066 (Item 7), the document
which was submitted for in camera review.