New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SERRANO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-009-080, Claim No. 112135, Motion No. M-71889


Synopsis


Claimant’s motion for an in camera review and production of certain records was granted in part.

Case Information

UID:
2006-009-080
Claimant(s):
BENJAMIN SERRANO
Claimant short name:
SERRANO
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
112135
Motion number(s):
M-71889
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant’s attorney:
ANDREW F. PLASSE, ESQ.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General
BY: Timothy P. Mulvey, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 28, 2006
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

In this claim, claimant seeks damages for personal injuries he suffered in an incident allegedly occurring on September 9, 2002, when he was incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility. Claimant alleges that he sustained injuries when he was attacked by another inmate by the name of Hector Matos (97 A 0832). In this motion, claimant seeks an in camera inspection of the disciplinary infraction history and psychiatric records of inmate Matos.

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affirmation, with Exhibits 1,2


Affirmation (in Opposition), with Attachment[1] 3

Reply Affirmation 4

In his affirmation, defendant has opposed this motion on the basis that disclosure of the documents sought by claimant would violate the privacy rights of Mr. Matos, and he has further cited potential threats to the safety and security of the facility if this information is released. Perhaps anticipating that this Court would order an in camera inspection, however, (and as indicated in Footnote 1 herein), defendant’s attorney has submitted for the Court’s review a copy of the “Inmate Disciplinary History” of inmate Matos, beginning with an incident occurring on April 27, 1997, and continuing through an incident occurring on November 21, 2005.[2]

In claims alleging negligence against the State for inmate assaults, evidence of the attacker’s prior behavior and a diagnosis of his medical condition are often material, relevant, and necessary to the prosecution of the claim (Wilson v State of New York, 36 AD2d 559). In order to properly pursue his claim, therefore, claimant may need access to information about the nonparty who perpetrated the assault. Reports of similar assaultive or violent behavior, and the circumstances surrounding such conduct, are therefore generally discoverable (Wilson v State of New York, supra; Villano v State of New York, 127 Misc 2d 761; Brier v State of New York, 95 AD2d 788). With regard to medical records, non-medical data contained therein relating to the assailant’s criminal record and behavior in confinement prior to the assault may be disclosed, although claimant is not entitled to records relating to that inmate’s prognosis and diagnosis (Brier v State of New York, supra).

The Court has now had the opportunity to review the “Inmate Disciplinary History” submitted by the defendant for an in camera inspection. There are several entries in this history where disciplinary infractions were reported which apparently involved assaultive or violent behavior that occurred prior to the incident involving claimant. The Court concludes that such entries may therefore bear some relevance to the allegations set forth in this claim, and therefore should be disclosed to claimant’s attorney.

Addressing the safety and security concerns raised by defendant’s attorney, however, it is the Court’s determination that this “Inmate Disciplinary History” must be disclosed only upon execution of a “Stipulation of Confidentiality” by claimant’s attorney. Furthermore, since this history includes incidents occurring after the incident of September 9, 2002, such infractions would not be relevant to the issue of prior notice, and therefore need not be disclosed.

With regard to claimant’s application for an in camera review of the psychiatric records for inmate Matos, however, this Court finds that claimant, at this point in time, has failed to establish any legitimate evidentiary purpose for an in camera review. This Court is unwilling to order the disclosure of medical records, or even the limited intrusion of an in camera review, without some basis or justification. However, should further discovery reveal information which might justify such disclosure, claimant’s attorney may request a conference with the Court, pursuant to § 206.8[b] of the Uniform Rules for the Court of Claims.

Accordingly, based upon the foregoing, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-71889 is hereby GRANTED, in part, and defendant shall produce to claimant’s attorney the “Inmate Disciplinary History” for inmate Hector Matos (97 A 0832) for the period commencing on April 27, 1997, up to and including the incident forming the basis of this claim which occurred on September 9, 2002, within 30 days of the execution of a “Stipulation of Confidentiality” between counsel; and it is further

ORDERED, that in all other aspects, this motion is hereby DENIED, without prejudice.

December 28, 2006
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. As discussed herein, defendant’s attorney has submitted, with the Court’s copy only, the “Inmate Disciplinary History” of inmate Matos.
[2]. Defendant’s attorney indicated he could not produce the mental health records for inmate Matos without either a court order or a release from Mr. Matos.